Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Festival crowds were good for business, say traders

Festival crowds were good for business, say traders

TRADERS say this year’s Henley Christmas Festival was one of the most successful ever.

Dozens of shops in the town stayed open late for the festival and many served festive food and drink to their customers.

In a change from previous years, there was an old-fashioned fun fair instead of larger rides in Hart Street, leaving more room for people to wander around the town centre.

This followed comments that the streets were becoming too crowded and people wanted more family friendly attractions.

Laurence Morris, who runs Laurence Menswear in Duke Street, had a magician performing in his shop and raised £425 in collections for the Chiltern Centre for disabled children in Greys Road.

He said: “It was excellent and one of the best Christmas Festivals we’ve had in terms of footfall, sales and the amount we raised for charity.

“It was massively up on last year, which was very quiet. The fact that the stalls were more spread out meant that it wasn’t so cramped and more people attended. I also think the weather helped.

“We had lots of customers coming in for mulled wine and Christmas cake and they all seemed pleased not to have those great big adult rides in the streets.”

Hilary Redhead, manager of the Bell Bookshop in Bell Street, said: “It was good and better than in previous years.

“It didn’t feel excessively busy as there weren’t such big rides everywhere and we had a lovely lady selling cakes outside the shop who also did well.”

Barry Wagner, who runs Gabriel Machin butchers in Market Place, had his traditional stall outside selling barbecue food to visitors.

He said: “We had a really busy day and the barbecue sold out. It was slightly busier than last year with a great atmosphere and we were lucky that the weather held off.

“The town looked beautiful, especially once the Christmas lights went on. Everyone I spoke to seemed really happy, which can only be a good thing.”

Neil Ainsworth, landlord at the neighbouring Argyll pub, said: “It was another successful year as we were really busy and sold out of hot dogs and pulled pork.

“The atmosphere was pleasant all night and all things considered it was slightly better than last year.

“I was a bit disappointed to see food sellers from outside the town as the council should be looking out for the businesses that pay rates.”

Town councillor Lorraine Hillier, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street, served hot chocolate to children who took part in a lantern parade from the River & Rowing Museum to her business.

She was disappointed there were no stalls or rides in Friday Street.

She said: “We had the reindeer on display at the end of the road but we need to have some stalls to get some vibrancy going otherwise most footfall goes straight to the town centre.

“We’d definitely like our street to be treated as a main part of the event.”

Clare Stacey, assistant manager of Bunker opticians in Duke Street, said the business usually stayed open later during the festival.

She said: “We served red and white wine, sweets and mince pies and had about 200 people. It’s just to say thank you for being a customer.”

Town and community manager Helen Barnett said the town council had tried to focus on local providers this year.

She said: “On the whole, we had people who are known and liked in Henley and come from the area.

“We’re happy to take any constructive criticism on board to make next year even better.”

• In last week’s report on the festival we incorrectly named the town crier as Ian Beyts when in fact it was David Wilson. We apologise for this error and any embarrassment caused.

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