Thursday, 23 September 2021

Rain hits Sunday shopping campaign

THE first Henley High Street Hootenanny was spoiled by wet weather and being held on the wrong day,

THE first Henley High Street Hootenanny was spoiled by wet weather and being held on the wrong day, say retailers.

Many more shops than normal stayed open for Sunday’s event, which was designed to boost trade.

There was a range of added attractions, including performances by musicians and dancers and shops offering refreshments.

However, most traders said the poor weather put people off and the event had come too soon after the successful Christmas festival on Friday night.

Town centre manager Rachel Rae, who organised the event in conjunction with Henley Town Council, said: “Obviously we can’t control the weather and it’s a shame that it rained at the weekend We made an effort to put entertainment on and had readings and performances to entice people into shops.

“The idea came from the feedback we had from  retailers. I don’t think we could have done any more.

“Going forward we want to try to make the first weekend of December about Sunday shopping as well as the Christmas festival.

“Friday is a celebration and for people to enjoy whereas Sunday is more focused on the shopping element and helping retailers.

“It’s the first time we have done a Sunday like this and it will take a couple of years to mature. It’s about building momentum.”

Gillian Nahum, who owns nautical gifts shop Boatique in Friday Street and chairs the Henley Business Partnership’s retail group, said Friday’s event, which went on until 9pm, was very successful.

“Sunday was not quite so good and the weather was poor,” she said.

“I think we probably should have gone for the Hootenanny this Sunday. Having the two close together was not such a good idea in retrospect but it’s one of those things where if you don’t try it you don’t know.

“Friday was absolutely tremendous. I have never had so many people in the shop. We were doing wine and stuff and people were loving it.”

Mayor Lorraine Hillier, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee house, also in Friday Street, agreed that the Hootenanny was a  disappointment.

She said: “Normally we’re quite busy on Sunday but we weren’t. I think it was the weather to blame and also, on reflection, too much on at the same time.

“People think ‘we did Henley on Friday so we’ll go to Reading instead’.”

Laurence Morris, who runs Laurence Menswear in Duke Street, said: “Friday was very successful, as always.

“I was giving out mulled wine and raising money for charity — I ended up collecting £170 for the Thames Valley air ambulance.

“The weather is always a big factor and the fact that it was dry made people come out.

“I would summarise Sunday by saying the weather played a big part. If the weather is miserable you can’t make people come out.”

However, it was busy at the Bell Bookshop in Bell Street, where a 20-strong senior wind and brass section of the Henley Music School played carols and festive songs.

Hilary Redhead, who runs the store, said: “We had a good day. I think we would have had a busy day anyway but we were very happy with the day’s trading.

“Compared with our first Sunday in December last year we did really well.

“The orchestra were really good and there were a lot of friends and family who came in with them.”

Music school founder Laura Reineke said the musicians enjoyed themselves.

“It was really good fun,” she said. “I had comments from passers-by saying they did not think it was children performing.”

Jonkers book shop in Hart Street was not open on Friday night as the street was full of fairground rides but opened on Sunday and had storytelling sessions for children.

Owner Sam Jonkers said: “Sunday was a busy day. We had a steady stream of customers and friends.

“Sales were not huge but the feedback we’ve had from friends and customers was that it was nice to get out in Henley.”

The Bull on Bell Street pub was running a special offer on Sunday  where customers could say the word “Hootenanny” to receive a free starter or pudding.

Manager Sophie Kilgour said: “We didn’t have any extra trade because of the offer. There were a few people who used it but it was not a busier day than normal for us.

“The weather was miserable outside, which probably prevented some people coming out.”

David Jack, who owns Noa Noa and Hubbledays in Duke Street, said the poor weather was unfortunate.

He said: “The weather was horrible so a lot of people did not come out but that’s Sundays all over — not specifically this Sunday, that is the way with any Sunday. It was not a disaster and I’m still pleased we did it but it could have been busier.

“The Friday event is more to do with Henley anyway and people just walk down to it.”

Barbara Easton, who runs a women’s boutique in Duke Street, said the shop was busy all weekend.

She said: “A lot of women look when they’re with their children and husband on the Friday and then come back the next day, which is probably why I was very busy on Saturday and Sunday. If it hadn’t rained we would have taken some seriously good money. It was busy until lunchtime but as soon as the weather hit it had an effect.”

It was also a good day at Central Home in Reading Road, which had performers from Acoustic@Magoos.

Hannah Ward, who runs the shop with her husband Steve, said: “Sunday was fantastic for us. It was probably the best Sunday we have had. The weather didn’t seem to affect us.

“We had a festive mulled wine syrup with prosecco which we gave to everyone coming in as well as festive cookies and cakes and they went down really well. We had also made quite a bit of effort to talk to people around town as well as handing out leaflets for a prize draw.”

Maggie Atkinson, who organises Acoustic@Magoos, said: “I was really impressed with the welcome from the shop owners.

“They were so encouraging and welcoming and even wanted us to do it again.

“From their point of view there were a lot of people in their shops that might not have come in otherwise.

“The performers were great too. It felt really jolly with a Christmas atmosphere.”

Miss Rae met retailers on Wednesday night to receive feedback. She said: “We’re happy to be led by them. What is best for retailers is what we will do.”

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