Business is booming for independent traders who have opened shops at the indoor Dundas Market in Middlesbrough.

The market’s owners have focused on creating a community market with an emphasis on customer service and a welcoming and supportive environment for new traders.

The result is a vibrant shopping destination where space is at a premium with more than 25 businesses providing a diverse range of products and services under one roof.

They include the area’s only vegan supermarket, a collectibles company which will scour the world to track down much-sought items, and a pet supplies shop which even sells mini houses for hedgehogs.

The shops are run by people new to business as well as experienced retailers.  In Alta Ego Cleveland College of Art and Design graduate Nicole Bean sells the jewellery, textiles and sculptures she has created.

Nicole had shops in various parts of Middlesbrough before moving to Dundas Market in 2017. Business is going so well for her that she has just taken on extra space.

“I’ve been trading for 15 years. This is the best setting for me,” she said. “Independent shops are a good thing for customers because they get the personal touch.  They like to speak to people and they like to look at things.

“It’s important that we have this kind of community, because we all help each other out and the management is really helpful as well.”

Animal lover Lucy Martin-Hall, 21, was new to business when she opened her shop – Leo Libra Pet Supplies – last summer (2018).

She benefitted from Dundas Market’s business creation and growth scheme where start-ups can rent an Enterprise Unit for as little as £10 per day.

Lucy said that helped her through the early weeks and – after a successful Christmas and a move to a bigger shop – trade is flourishing.

She said she has been supported by the market manager David Harris, who has been particularly helpful with advice about how to use social media to promote Libra Pet Supplies.

“He’s always there if you have any problems.  I wasn’t thinking about expanding until I spoke to him and he told me about all the benefits, which I’m already seeing,” said Lucy.  “He helped me make the right decision.”

Her bigger shop has enabled her to widen her range of products, which already include items for snakes and bearded dragons, as well as food, toys and tiny houses for hedgehogs.

Ian and Karen Riley ran a successful website selling collectible gifts.  The Celebrity Gift Company was launched after Karen realised the high demand for items after selling Betty Boop figures online.

Like Lucy, the Rileys opened a shop in Dundas Market last summer and have just moved to a bigger unit to cater for the thousand different lines they sell.

“We’re a family business and we can’t compete head-on with High Street retailers, but our difference is that we stock everything they don’t,” said Ian.

“Our three big sellers are Betty Boop, Disney and Elvis.  It’s amazing how many local collectors there are.  They’re after everything: figures, cushions, purses, mirrors, tea pots, oven gloves…you name it.”

And if an item is not in stock, The Celebrity Gift Company will make sure its customers are not disappointed – even if it means finding and importing rare editions from the Far East.

Another arrival in 2018 – The Little Vegan Market – is also going from strength to strength.  It has just doubled its floor space to cater for the growing demand for vegan food and products.

Earlier this year two people, providing very different products, joined the Dundas Market community of traders and fulfilled lifelong ambitions of running their own businesses.

In February Byron Pearman started his own tattoo parlour, Beardy Giant Tattoos, and last month Christine Fearon – a former drug and alcohol worker with the Criminal Justice System – opened her florist shop Made with Love.

Dundas Market manager David Harris said he was very proud of all the traders who have helped in the transformation of the market.

“Retail is a tough business, particularly today, but everybody’s worked so hard and they deserve their success,” he said.  “It’s extremely satisfying to see people start from scratch – like many of them have – and in such a short time do so well that they need bigger units in the market.  We have even had a number move into larger shop units in Dundas Shopping Centre.”

Contact David if you are interested in starting or moving your business to Dundas Market. Phone 01642 232552 or email.