Shops are seeing glimmer of hope

CHRISTMAS trade in Huntingdon got off to an encouraging start last weekend, with some shops reporting bumper sales in spite of the economic slowdown. And footfall figures taken in November showed shopping holding up last month too, said town centre manage

CHRISTMAS trade in Huntingdon got off to an encouraging start last weekend, with some shops reporting bumper sales in spite of the economic slowdown.

And footfall figures taken in November showed shopping holding up last month too, said town centre manager Katy Sismore on Tuesday, December 9. "We are trading well," she added.

That mood was enthusiastically echoed by Ben Clark, acting manager at clothing retailer Burton in Huntingdon High Street.

"Trading has been absolutely superb. It was the best week we'd had in ages, because of the 20 per cent discount we were offering. Because of that success we shall be repeating it.


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"We finished the week way ahead of target," he told The Hunts Post. "We're really pleased and we're looking forward to bumper sales again this weekend."

Along the street, it was a similar story at chocolatier Thorntons, where manager Kim Williams said: "We are on target, maybe thanks to our three-for-two offer last weekend. It's really picking up, and we're above last year.

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"We tend to get busier towards Christmas itself, and we have a big promotion this coming weekend with 25 per cent off everything on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Things will pick up from then."

On the other side of the High Street, WH Smith manager Malcolm Goddard is celebrating his first Christmas in the store.

"We had a very good weekend, similar to last year, which is pleasing in the circumstances. It helped that the weather was dry, so people weren't attracted to the shopping centre in Peterborough."

Mike Fowler, owner of Sports and Fashions was more cautious. "Trading was better than it has been, but it's down on last year. However, we expect to pick up towards Christmas."

Parsley Pot owner Kon Selin was surprised by how busy the weekend was for the fashion-to-gifts shop. "Trade was more or less on a par with last. Even with the credit crunch, it hasn't been as bad as I expected it to be. So I'm optimistic for the rest of the season."

Trade in St Ives has not yet taken off to the same extent, it seems. "There has not been any terrifically noticeable change yet," said town centre manager Jane Dowd. "Mind you, I haven't spoken to every retailer."

But there was a definite improvement in trade in St Neots, town centre manager Tom McCormick said. "There have been more people in town, especially on Sunday. They are very optimistic."

Surprisingly, only about a dozen residents took early advantage of Huntingdonshire District Council's offer of up to four hours free long-stay parking on one Saturday in December or January, using a voucher included in the council's magazine District Wide.

"Perhaps they haven't read it yet," said HDC's Sonia Hansen, "or maybe they're waiting until nearer Christmas. But the town centre was certainly very busy anyway."

Some people had tried to use the voucher during the week, when it is not valid. So far, warnings have been issued, but penalties wait in the wings.

"People should be able to tell the difference between a Saturday and a weekday."

Parking is free in Huntingdonshire on Sundays.

Is your business beating the economic slump? Then why not let readers of The Hunts Post know about it on our business pages. Call the newsdesk on 01480 411481 or e-mail editor@huntspost.co.uk

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