Thursday, 16 September 2021

Traders urged to join new Christmas shopping event

A NEW retail event is to be launched in Henley as part of this year’s Christmas celebrations

A NEW retail event is to be launched in Henley as part of this year’s Christmas celebrations.

The initiative, provisionally called Santa’s Sunday Shopping, will take place during the daytime on December 6 and will include “pop-up” shows by local musicians at various locations.

Father Christmas will walk around the town centre greeting children and there could be a “focal point” on Falaise Square which would also host performances.

Participating shops could offer discounts by handing out special vouchers at Henley’s regular late-night shopping evening, which takes place two days beforehand. They will be encouraged to offer mince pies and other refreshments.

Other attractions could include book readings at the Bell bookshop in Bell Street.

The event, organised by Henley Town Council and the Henley Business Partnership, will be promoted at the Mayor’s annual fun run, which starts at the River and Rowing Museum on the same morning.

It will replace last year’s Switch On and Shop event, which took place in late November on a trial basis.

Councillor Sam Evans, of the council’s Christmas Festival sub-committee, said: “We spoke to retailers afterwards and the feeling was that it hadn’t really worked.

“We’re hoping this will be a lovely family day out in Henley and want to attract as many people as we can. We’ll advertise it in Marlow so hopefully we’ll draw a few people from there.

“By holding it on the first Sunday of the month, it should benefit businesses throughout the Advent period. It will make people realise they can stay in Henley to get everything they need.

“We want to break people out of this mindset where they automatically get in the car and drive to Reading. I would urge every independent trader to get involved and help us make it a success.”

Henley Mayor Lorraine Hillier, who owns the Hot Gossip coffee shop in Friday Street and the Upstairs & Downstairs tea rooms in Duke Street, said: “We’ve got some great plans in store. I open on a Sunday anyway as it’s a popular time for people to come in. With lots of other shops trading at the same time I expect we will do even better.”

She added: “Henley is not a big town with a shopping mall so it’ll be nice if all the shops are open for people to pop into.”

Gillian Nahum, who owns the Boatique gift shop in Friday Street and chairs the Henley Business Partnership’s retail group, said: “This is a great example of everyone in Henley pulling together to create something for the community. I’m sure it will be well supported but we shall have to wait and see.”

There are also planning to install sparkling white lights along the trees in Thames Side between New Street and Friday Street.

The town council would buy them for about £6,000 and they would be left up all year. The full council will make the final decision.

Cllr Evans said: “There was such a fantastic reaction to the Christmas lights staying up in Falaise Square this summer so we felt this would be well received.

“It would make a lovely entrance to the town from Henley Bridge and would be a worthwhile investment.”

As part of the late-night shopping on December 4, art students from The Henley College will decorate Santa’s grotto at the King’s Arms Barn for the first time.

Young musicians who regularly perform at Magoos bar in Hart Street will entertain families while they queue to meet Santa and will help to distribute the presents.

The large carousel which has been set up in Market Place for the past two years will not return as councillors believes it detracts from the festive atmosphere.

As usual, however, there will be dozens of stalls run by local businesses, charities and community groups selling gifts and refreshments.

A 30ft Christmas tree will be installed in Falaise Square and the lights will be switched on that evening by the winner of the Mayor’s annual Christmas card design competition.

Children from the town’s primary schools are usually invited to take part but this year Cllr Hillier is asking pupils from Gillotts School and The Henley College instead.

Meanwhile, businesses are also being approached to take part in the town council’s small Christmas trees scheme.

They can hire the trees with white lights, which will be installed outside their premises and lit before the start of the festive season.

They will be powered by special sockets which the council installed last year.

Cllr Evans said: “It’s shaping up to be another great Christmas with a lot to be excited about. Let’s cross our fingers for some nice, dry weather!”

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