Monday, 23 November 2020

Traders optimistic despite loss of Christmas festival

GORING’S independent traders are still hoping for a strong festive season despite the village’s late-night Christmas shopping festival being cancelled.

The event, which was expected to take place on Friday, December 4, has been scrapped due to the restrictions on public gatherings brought in to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The festival usually attracts at least 1,000 people as businesses in High Street stay open until 8pm, set out stalls offering treats and host games, fairground rides or live entertainment.

Jeanne Hunter, who runs the Inspiration gift shop at The Arcade, said she would still put out a table where toys could be demonstrated while observing social distancing.

She said: “Obviously we’re very disappointed at the cancellation, although we completely understand why it can’t go ahead as people’s health must always come first.

“We’ve moved away from the festival being a purely retail event but it’s still very much a benefit to the community and a lovely way of bringing people together.

“All the kids love coming out to get some freebies and it’s a lovely way to kick things off, so it’s going to leave quite a vacuum.

“We’ll still do demonstrations and are hoping it’ll be a hit for us because it’s usually the biggest day of the year for takings. I guess we’ll just have to put on a brave face and do things differently.

“The independents in Goring still need to support one another and find ways of encouraging people to visit because for many of us it isn’t viable to set up an online presence to try to compete with bigger retailers.” Mrs Hunter said her shop had been doing “okay” since it re-opened after the lockdown, although trade was generally about 10 per cent down on previous years.

She said: “We’ve pushed hard over the years to get people to support us and hopefully that has paid off. Customers were saying the village lost its heart and soul when all the shops had to close in March but that’s what it will be like forever if they don’t survive.

“It has been a challenging year and we could always be doing better but we should just about hang in there as long as there isn’t another lockdown. That would be extremely disheartening — it would be my wages for the year gone.”

Vivienne Lee, owner of the Chocolate Café, usually books fairground rides or a Punch and Judy show and hosts a barbecue outside alongside stallholders selling hand-made arts and crafts.

She said: “The puppet show is one of the highlights of the festival so it’s disappointing that it can’t go ahead. We couldn’t even have a smaller children’s event because The Arcade is a small space where you can’t easily keep apart.

“However, our café has been doing really well since re-opening in July and I have to thank the community for its support over the summer and beyond.

“Although the infection numbers are going up, I’m pretty confident that we won’t have another full lockdown because, economically speaking, you can’t just keep doing that every few months. Hopefully, things will continue going as well as they have.”

Luke Robert Hair in High Street usually hosts a champagne reception on the night, as does the Virgo Beauty salon opposite.

Both are now trading under a raft of protective measures with staff wearing face shields and masks and chairs and equipment being sanitised between appointments.

Luke Hawkins, who owns the hair salon, said: “I can totally understand why the festival has been called off because people’s health and safety are far more important.

“We don’t sell much on the night but it brings people together and it’s good for marketing, especially as we’re still relatively new.

“Business is still steady after the initial rush when lockdown was lifted. We’ve taken a few bookings for Christmas but we’re expecting fewer than normal.”

Tony Virgo-Harris, who runs the beauty salon with his wife Sarah, said: “The festival is an integral part of village life and it’s a shame it can’t happen. The cancellation won’t affect our trade.

“It’s usually very busy with people getting treatments for Christmas parties but many of those won’t be going ahead. We’ll have to wait and see what the impact is.”

Masoom’s Tandoori in High Street usually sees an increase in customers during late-night shopping.

Owner Haq Abdul said he was expecting a quieter festive season but should still fare well as customers have stayed loyal throughout the pandemic.

Mr Abdul said: “We have some fantastic customers who sent us flowers and cards to thank us for keeping the village alive when almost everything else was shut. They’ve also been very respectful in keeping to the new restrictions, usually without any reminding.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen over the coming months but this is a community where people help each other.”

Charlotte Cameron, who opened the Workers Club menswear shop in High Street with her husband Adam earlier this year, was disappointed at the cancellation but still expects her festive goods to sell well.

She said: “We’d heard so much about the late-night shopping so we’re sad not to be a part of it in our first year, but it’s completely understandable.

“We sell smart-casual clothing and a lot of men are looking for that because they’re working from home, so business has been good even though we opened in the middle of a pandemic.

“Some people might think it’s an odd thing to do but it’s worked well for us and that should continue over Christmas.” 

Nick and Mary Galer, who run the Miller of Mansfield in High Street, are still working to re-open the premises after it was damaged in a fire earlier this month so are unsure about their Christmas plans.

Mrs Galer said: “We certainly get families coming in during the late-night shopping but obviously our focus at the moment is just getting the business back up and running.

“If it comes down to it, we’ve talked about doing a pop-up restaurant somewhere else. We could use another premises for three or four nights over Christmas with Nick cooking and a wine to match the menu.”

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