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Regatta boost for businesses
Published 14/07/14

TRADERS in Henley received a welcome boost from the 175th royal regatta.

Many businesses reported having more custom than in previous years and some even said they had experienced their best year for sales.

An estimated 200,000 people attended the five-day regatta and enjoyed fine, sunny weather every day except on Saturday when it rained.

Many visitors tended to come into the town centre in the evenings to visit the pubs and restaurants rather than during the day when they would miss the racing.

But clothes shops in particular experienced a lift in sales due to both local customers and visitors.

Menswear stores Laurence and Sullivans, which are next to each other in Duke Street, both reported big sales increases on last year. Laurence Morris, owner of Laurence, said it was his best regatta since the store opened in March 2012 with sales up 50 per cent on a year ago.

Mr Morris said: “Some customers arrived that morning with literally nothing but jeans and a T-shirt. They asked me to kit them out completely with a jacket, shirt, tie, trousers, shoes and so on. I guess blokes don’t think in advance.”

Tim O’Sullivan, owner of Sullivans, said his sales were up by about a third on last year. “It was a very good regatta indeed,” he said. “I was quite surprised at how much more footfall there was.

“We were kitting people out from top to bottom. Some had outfits already but they looked in our window and wanted to try something new.”

Nadieh Hodgson, who works at Hart Street women’s boutique Rive Gauche, said sales soared because the dress code for the stewards’ enclosure was being strictly enforced.

She said: “They were turning most women away if they only had dresses on the knee so we had dozens coming in on the first four days.

“That was our main source of extra income. I couldn’t put a figure on it but we definitely did much better than last year.”

George Henderson, owner of Foam, also in Hart Street, said: “I did actually joke that I was sponsoring the stewards’ enclosure because of the number of women coming in.

“We had a good week, as we always do during the regatta, but it wasn’t quite as good as last year. There were more women asking for new dresses but their friends weren’t buying things while they waited, which usually happens.”

Venetia Anderson, manager of Barbara Easton in Duke Street, said: “Our sales weren’t quite as good as last year but it was still a good week.”

Suhee Kim, co-owner of Boutique 97 in Friday Street, said: “It was our first regatta and we’d been told how busy it would be, so we were anticipating hordes but it was only a little bit above average.

“A lot of women wanted dresses below the knee, which we had no idea was a requirement. We ran out and had to do an emergency restock, which arrived the next morning. We weren’t prepared but it’s a lesson learned.”

Liz Felix, who opened her millinery shop in Reading Road two months ago, said she was very busy in the run-up to the regatta but less so during the event.

“I was surprised at how few people walked past the window,” she said. “Most people who arrived at the station walked along the waterfront and it’s disappointing that more didn’t come through the town centre.”

Flower shop White Gdn in Hart Street saw sales increase by 40 per cent on the same week last year.

Owner Annette March said: “It was a great week for us but I’m not sure why this year was better.

“We’re well suited to the event as many customers buy bouquets to thank people for letting them stay in their homes during the week.”

Boat hire firm Hobbs of Henley said its trade increased by about 10 per cent.

Managing director Jonathan Hobbs said the first three days of the regatta were much busier than in previous years and its 10 new chauffeured launches were fully booked.

“It has been one of the best regattas in memory,” said Mr Hobbs. “The Thursday and Friday were some of the busiest weekdays we’ve ever experienced.

“It slackened off a bit on the Saturday because the weather wasn’t as good but it picked up again on the Sunday.

Pubs also fared well. The Three Tuns pub in Market Place said profits were up 25 per cent on last year and more people than normal ordered food as well as drink.

Manager Hannah Richards said: “We had a great atmosphere all week.”

Douglas Green, who has owned the Little Angel in Remenham Lane for 11 years, said it was his best regatta yet.

He said: “I couldn’t put a figure on it but trade increases every year. We put on a lot of entertainment and served a lot of lunches.

“We could never compete with the likes of Mahiki or Chinawhite but we held our own pretty well.”

Mark Dunlop, landlord of the Angel of the Bridge, said: “The weather was better and I think that helped create a great atmosphere. It meant people decided to leave the site earlier in the evening.

“Everyone was really enjoying themselves and we were fully booked for lunches and dinners. We also hosted a rowers’ dinner on the Sunday night, which is a good way of giving them something back after their week of hard work.”

Vivienne Punter, sales and events co-ordinator at the Red Lion Hotel, said the bedrooms and restaurant were fully booked throughout the week.

She said: “We had customers staying who had booked last year and we also took a lot of bookings for next year at the end of this regatta.

“It’s always a good week for us because we’re ideally located. People stay further afield but when they walk past us they realise there’s somewhere nearer and make a booking.”

However, not all businesses had a profitable week.

Lorraine Hillier, who owns the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street and the Upstairs and Downstairs tea rooms in Duke Street, said both fared “dreadfully”.

She blamed the hot weather, saying many people didn’t leave the riverside during the day.

She said: “I think the night-time economy was good because that’s when people come into the town centre but it was bad for us. Our best day for trade was on the Saturday when it rained.”

Shelley Walker, manager of Precious Love jewellers in Duke Street, said the shop was quiet.

“It was my first regatta and I’d geared myself up for a really busy week but it wasn’t like that,” she said. “I suppose it was hot and sunny so people didn’t want to go shopping and carry lots of bags around.”

Gillian Nahum, who owns Boatique in Hart Street, said: “We took more or less half of what we did last year. I wonder whether that might be because fewer people visited the regatta this year.

“I also think a lot of local people choose to stay out of Henley during regatta week and we had some very poor takings in the run-up to it.”

Town centre manager Peter McConnell said: “I’m pleased that many businesses are reporting their best year ever. It reflects some of the work we have carried out with the regatta to get visitors over to this side of the river.

“Businesses selling items that people need for the regatta, like shirts, jackets or dresses below the knee, are always going to do well.

“It will always be difficult if you are selling, say, jewellery because that is not what visitors have come for.”

Published 14/07/14

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