A slow start but strong end as Christmas shoppers return to Rugby town centre

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TIMES may be tough on the high street but shoppers still descended on the town centre in the run up to Christmas.

A survey carried out by Rugby First showed that first couple of weeks in December were not particularly busy in town, but that trade picked up in the last two weeks before Christmas.

Aftab Gaffar, managing director of Rugby First, said: “In the last two weeks it got really busy. Clothing, gifts, jewellery and value retailers said they did really well with an increase from three to eight per cent in sales. Other shops reported that they hadn’t done very well and the rest reported no change at all.”

As part of a Rugby First initiative, 17,000 vouchers for £3 to spend in town were sent out to selected postcodes. A total of 14 per cent were used which generated more than £40,000 in sales in the town centre.

Mr Gaffar said: “I’m pleased with the findings. You have to understand that things are not good for the consumer. Everyone is trying to save money.”

Other incentives to bring people into town included setting up Santa’s Grotto, which attracted 600 children, and free parking in borough council car parks after 3pm. Mr Gaffar said: “There was mixed feedback about the parking with some saying it helped and others saying it didn’t work for them.”

Mike O’Connor, owner of J Parriss Jewellers in Regent Street, said that he had a few customers come into the shop saying that they had come into town because of the free parking. Talking about his Christmas trade, Mr O’Connor said: “It was tough but we were very happy with the final result. We always knew it was going to be difficult and it was but we managed to scrape through.”

Mr O’Connor suggested next year pulling together with other traders to open for late night shopping on the same evening.

Helen Blamires, who owns Vanilla and Vanilla Home in Albert Street, said business was very good in the last week.

She said: “I think that people aren’t spending online in that last week.”

Mrs Blamires said she’d like to see free parking everywhere to town.