Saturday, 18 September 2021

Warm weather at regatta gives businesses a boost

Henley Royal Regatta

Henley Royal Regatta

BUSINESSES in Henley are celebrating after a boost in their trade as a result of this year’s royal regatta — with many experiencing their best ever year.

Shops, pubs and cafés all benefited from the thousands of visitors who came into the town centre while attending the five-day rowing event.

Cafés and coffee shops were particularly busy in the mornings and at lunchtime.

Lorraine Hillier, who runs Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street, said it was her best ever year for business during the regatta and trade was 20 per cent up on normal.

She said: “I was saying ‘it’s going to be a bit quiet because it’s such good weather’ but we were extremely busy for the mornings and lunches — I didn’t expect it at all. It was a pleasant surprise because we’ve had some poor weeks before during the regatta.

“When it’s sunny Henley is especially beautiful and people thought ‘let’s explore the town’.”

Laurence Morris, who runs Laurence Menswear in Duke Street, said: “It was excellent — it was my best regatta week ever in seven years. I was more than 10 per cent up on my previous best year in 2015. I think the weather helped.

“I sold 50 pairs of chino trousers just in regatta week. There’s a lot of overseas people, the Americans love coming in here, but equally lots of locals.”

Liz Felix, who runs Liz Felix Millinery in Reading Road, also enjoyed record sales. She said: “It was my best regatta ever. I do think the weather had a lot to do with it. People were out and about and are shopping more and they don’t mind walking about town.

“The weather was very warm and people are looking for shade and coverage. As a result I had people walking from the Stewards’ Enclosure to the shop just to buy a hat.”

Shaun Dickens, who runs restaurant Shaun Dickens at The Boathouse in Station Road, said he too had experienced a record year.

Trade was up five per cent on his previous best last year and on two days — Thursday and Friday — he and his team catered for 240 covers on both days. This comprised 80 covers for breakfast, 80 for lunch and 80 for dinner.

He said: “It was really good — it was absolutely crazy from minute one on Wednesday morning and it didn’t stop through to Sunday afternoon. Without a shadow of a doubt it’s my favourite week of the year and without a shadow of a doubt it’s the hardest week of the year.

“Year on year we just learn and develop as a team. On a normal week our capacity is 45 but we take the bar furniture out and put more tables in so we’re almost doubling our covers.

“On Friday lunchtime we had 80 in and 45 on the waiting list. It’s a nice problem to have — I wish I had even more space for that one day of the year.”

Jonathan Hobbs, managing director of boat hire firm Hobbs of Henley, said that although Saturday afternoon, usually the company’s busiest period, was quieter because of the football, the company still had a successful regatta.

He said: “The weather was probably the best I can ever remember. It was lovely and warm and that meant a lot of people were out on the river to cool down a little bit.”

Neil Ainsworth, landlord of the Argyll pub in Market Place, also hailed the regatta period a success.

“My staff worked incredibly hard and we opened every possible trading hour we could,” he said. “Customers were great and I didn’t have one broken glass throughout the regatta.

Mr Ainsworth said sales were particularly good during England’s quarter-final match against Sweden, where he stopped serving food to concentrate on selling drinks, and had an area just for those wanted to sit down.

Annie Gray, manager of Spoon in Duke Street, said it had its best week since opening in October 2016. She said: “We had lots of hungry rowers and lots of visitors to the town and locals stuck with us as well so it was a really positive week.

“I think there’s a positive recognition growing around the independent shops in Henley. We have got our own little niche and we deliver great quality and great customer service with big smiles.

She added: “There was definitely a real buzz in town which I could feel as I walked around.”

Coffee shop Berries, in Hart Street, run by Lawrence Tian and Lucy Lu opened at the beginning of the year and also had a successful regatta.

Mr Tian said sales were double what they were in a normal week and that their shop was busy in the mornings.

But as the days progressed, and the weather became warmer, he said they experienced less footfall as people wanted cold drinks instead.

Town manager Helen Barnett was delighted with the results. She said: “I think it was really amazing that the Henley Standard helped to run a campaign about the town still being open for trade.

“We were trying to encourage customers to support the town while the regatta was on and it seems to have worked, so I’m very happy.

“I’m just glad everyone was so positive and supported Henley and don’t forget we’re open for the rest of the year!”

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