Friday, 12 August 2022

Christmas shopping event faces axe due to lack of interest

A SHOPPING event in Henley designed to boost trade for retailers at Christmas could be scrapped.

Town manager Helen Barnett says that it is time for businesses to come up with their own ideas on how they would increase footfall.

Last year’s Festive Sunday shopping event was hit by snow and very few shoppers braved the cold while some shops were unable to open because staff couldn’t get to work.

Wooden cabins which had been ordered for the stalls in Market Place failed to arrive after the lorry carrying them got stuck on the M40. Speaking at a Christmas events “wash-up” meeting at the town hall on Tuesday, Ms Barnett said the event was not worth organising.

She said: “Most people come in to shop anyway that close to Christmas. I suggest we speak to retailers to see what they want to do. Perhaps they can have some sort of ‘independents day’.”

“It is so hard to get the retailers on board so by understanding what they want they have to get behind it as well.”

Town councillor Sarah Miller, who chaired the meeting, said it always seemed to be “like pushing water up a hill”. Laurence Morris, who owns Laurence Menswear in Duke Street, said: “The apathy among independents never ceases to surprise me but business is business and I want people to come into the shop and not be distracted.”

Mayor Kellie Hinton suggested re-introducing the treasure trail around the town incorporating the shops.

Ms Barnett suggested making it last throughout December and the council’s events co-ordinator Paula Price-Davies suggested calling it the Advent Trail.

Mr Morris said that in previous years the trail had been successful for him and that children enjoyed it. Town councillor David Eggleton suggested asking South Oxfordshire District Council to provide a week’s free parking in its car parks to encourage shoppers.

The Festive Sunday shopping event was introduced in 2016 and was held on the weekend after the Christmas Festival.

It followed the High Street Hootenanny in 2015 and Switch on and Shop event in 2014.

Ms Barnett will meet retailers to discuss Christmas events on February 21.

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