SHOPS and businesses in Henley have bought fewer Christmas trees to display this year for charity.
A total of 142 trees have been paid for so far, compared with 155 that were bought last year. The record number sold was 268 in 2002.
Each year, businesses are invited to a buy a tree which is installed on the outside of their building for the Christmas period to help encourage trade. The trees cost £56.50 each and a £10 donation is made to Henley Lions Club, which sells the trees on behalf of the town council.
More than 30 new businesses have taken part in the scheme this year but some that took part last year have opted not to do so this Christmas.
Jeni Wood, who chairs the council’s Christmas events and decorations committee, said: “I was so disappointed when I walked into the square and saw that one side was almost naked of Christmas trees when most of the businesses there do a very good trade.
“I am very grateful to the small businesses that may or may not be doing well, or those which have a chain behind them, which take a Christmas tree.”
Cllr Wood accused some chain stores of failing to show goodwill, saying: “They are happy to take our money but they are not happy to give back to the people of Henley.”
Cllr Wood said the council had invested £5,000 in new Christmas lights in Bell Street and Duke Street to help boost trade and promote the festive atmosphere so a tree represented value for money.
She said: “They start to be put up after the Remembrance Day service and last until January 6, so the price is cheap per day. The trees have all got LED lights, so they are not expensive to run and because it is marketing, it is tax-deductible. Everyone is very proud of having an address here and they ought to have a Christmas tree in the season of goodwill.”
The Standard asked national retailers with branches in Henley which haven’t bought a tree for an explanation. A spokeswoman for M & Co in Bell Street said: “While we wholeheartedly encourage our 275 stores all over the country to raise money for any local charity of their choice, we also have a commitment to our national charity partner, Cancer Research UK, which we have raised nearly £1.4million for over the past four years.”
A spokeswoman for Carphone Warehouse, which has a shop in Bell Street, said: “As per last year, we are continuing to support our charity partner Get Connected and we have a number of employee-nominated charities to which we will be contributing. Unfortunately, we are unable to support every worthy cause.”
Loch Fyne, which had two trees last year, and Maison Blanc, which had one, have not bought trees this year. No one was available to speak on their behalf. No one was available to comment for Zizzi in Hart Street and Café Rouge in Hart Street, which have also not bought trees.
After being contacted by the Standard, Robert Dyas in Bell Street donated £140 to Henley Lions. Marketing manager Dean Morris said that not taking part last year was an “oversight” and that they didn’t sign up this year because of a change of management. He added: “We are keen to participate next year.”
Domino’s Pizza in Bell Street bought a tree after being contacted by the Standard while Laura Ashley in Duke Street and Fat Face in Bell Street both said they now wanted to be involved.
Last year, the Standard contacted Sainsbury’s, which has a store in Bell Street, because it didn’t have a tree and this year it has bought three. Boots and W H Smith, also in Bell Street, have both paid for a tree each this year after not doing last Christmas. Timpsons, in Bell Street, which sent £150 to the Lions last year, has bought a tree this year.
All the businesses that have taken part in this year’s scheme will receive a certificate signed by Mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin. The beneficiary is Wyfold Riding for the Disabled.