Shops festive fightback

HARROGATE retailers have bounced back from a major power cut, after huge crowds flocked to town in the days following Christmas.

Many shops were forced to close early on Saturday, December 16, when a power cut left them in darkness, and unable to use tills and card machines.

Frustrated shopkeepers were worried they had lost significant trade on what is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.

But a busy post-Christmas period has given many of those shops a boost.

David McIver, manager of Beales department store on Albert Street, said: “The last two days [Monday and Tuesday] have been really busy for us.

“The day after Boxing Day was definitely the busiest, it was quite a big surprise for us. It was very pleasing, especially after the previous tough weekend we had with the power cuts.”

He said the week leading up to Christmas had seen them do quite well, with the Thursday and Friday particularly busy, and Christmas Eve morning all helping the store to catch up.

“Boxing Day wasn’t as busy as we expected it to be to be honest but we still did OK,” he said, “The day after was the busiest though. I think with the bank holiday falling as it did, a lot of people stayed at home on the Monday and then came out on the Tuesday to shop.”

Harrogate’s branch of Next also did good business in the days after Christmas.

A spokesman for the store said: “It’s quite an exciting time for us. We were really, really busy on Boxing Day, it ended up being a great day of sales for us.

“We were open all day, fully staffed, and everyone enjoyed the first day of the sales. We just had a really successful day, and managed to exceed all of our sales targets.”

But the picture was not universally rosy. Other retailers questioned how much a day of free parking had done to boost Christmas Eve business.

Both the Jubilee and Victoria car parks were free to use on Christmas Eve - a move funded by Northern Powergrid as a goodwill gesture after the power cuts.

Penny Wood, Sales Manager at the Harrogate branch of Lewis and Cooper, said: “It wasn’t massively disappointing but I would have expected more from Christmas Eve.”

She said it hadn’t seemed to her that the offer of free parking had brought more people into town, adding that she thought it was notably quieter than the previous Saturday, before the power failure.

“We were expecting a last minute burst on gifts and it just never came. I don’t know whether it was just the fact of when the holiday had fallen [over the weekend] or whether people had just done their shopping by Christmas Eve.”

“That’s not to say town wasn’t really busy though, because it was. It was still a good Saturday, just not anything out of the ordinary,” she said.

She added that she expected business to pick up in the week leading up to New Year’s Eve with people coming in to buy Champagne and hampers for their celebrations.

Meanwhile, Georgio Gerakio, creative director of Stoners jewellers on Princes Street, said: “I don’t think that the offers of free parking were particularly effective in bringing people into town.

“They should have offered free parking all over town like they do on Sundays.”

“We didn’t have a bad Christmas all together really,” he said, “But in the end Christmas Eve was no more busy than any other busy Saturday.”