Monday, 22 April 2019

Christmas Festival date is perfect

Christmas Festival date is perfect

Sir, — I cannot believe that our town councillors are spending so much time discussing when Henley’s Christmas Festival and tree lights switch-on should be this year (Standard, April 5).

The date had already been agreed in January but because some councillors have another opinion it continues to be discussed.

When considering the sense of national indecisiveness that we are currently under, it would be extremely beneficial to have a little more decisiveness at a local level.

Regardless of the scale of a town or city, all retailers rely on a successful Christmas period. It strongly influences their overall yearly performance and profitability, which in turn dictates the economic value of the town’s high street.

Retail businesses contribute far more greatly, in a financial sense, to the success of a town rather than whether certain members of the community think it’s time to get in the festive mood or not.

In recent months there has been great discussion on shop closures and empty units in the town, particularly in comparison with Marlow.

If we look to Marlow, this year they are scheduled to have their late-night shopping (with the lights switched on) on November 21.

Personally, I think this is probably too early but what it signals is a town that has necessitated a consumer event around the needs of its retailers.

In my opinion, you cannot have a Christmas Festival without having a lights switch-on at the same time. To suggest that Friday, November 29 is too early is ridiculous and to think that anyone could be “offended” by this is laughable! Having our festival on November 29 gives retailers a good three-and-a-half-week run into Christmas itself. If you move it to a week later it reduces this festive build-up.

May I add that many companies in Henley will have their Christmas parties on Fridays in December and closing roads and having the festival on December 6 would seriously impact these events.

Has the council looked into the costs of staging two events in the town, i.e, road closures, policing, marshaling etc?

I have personally spoken to many retailers in the town who share my opinion. Why aren’t our councillors listening to us?

Simply put, the more businesses there are, the greater the income stream for the town and the more the town has to put into forwarding Henley’s success.

The high street is the backbone of any market town and it is vital that businesses and retailers get the support they deserve from our council.

We have an amazing event in the Living Advent Calendar, which obviously always starts on December 1. This is a totally separate event and, unlike the Christmas Festival, is entirely about creating festivity in the community by raising much-needed funds for a variety of charities.

This event, although generating footfall, has a different driving factor and should be separate and not in any way influence when the Christmas Festival and lights switch-on takes place. — Yours faithfully,

Laurence Morris

Owner, Laurence Menswear, Duke Street, Henley

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