Mixed success for Wokingham traders during ChristmasBy Hugh Fort
January 09, 2009
Most small traders in Wokingham say they are nervous about the future after a quiet Christmas.
Shop owners in the town centre fear business will drop after the Christmas rush as people begin to tighten the purse strings.
But it has not been all doom and gloom for Wokingham traders duirng the festive period.
Woolworths collapse and credit crunch bring customers back to local shops.
John Wood, owner of John Wood Sports in Market Place, said he had picked up the fallout of the collapse of Woolworths, which closed its Peach Street branch last month.
“I seem to be picking up the remains of Woolies customers.
“That’s a good thing, but we also have a good customer base having been here for so long.
“And the thing is, you can get items here that you can’t get at the big stores, a lot of which are struggling, so people end up traipsing around Reading, not finding it and coming back here.”
John Piasecki, owner of Hudson Bay in Denmark Street, said: “The final few days before Christmas were quite good.
"I’m not getting ecstatic, but they were okay.
“Our ‘Weird Fish’ clothing selection saved our bacon as it proved very popular.
“That said, it was probably our worst Christmas this century and if the papers are anything to go by, worse is yet to come.”
Fewer Shoppers in town.
Other traders reported seeing significantly fewer shoppers in the town already this year.
John Wellington, joint owner of Wellington’s Jewellers in Denmark Street, said: “The volume of shoppers in town seems to be less.
“I’m not sure if they go for all the offers at The Oracle in Reading, but certainly there appears to be fewer people around.”
Mike Holmes, owner of Wokingham Photographic in Denmark Street, said: “We were in the day after Christmas all the way up until New Year’s Eve and back on January 2.
“Our online sales were okay over Christmas, but Christmas as a whole was disappointing.
“The town is very, very quiet at the moment, as you would expect.
“It is not very pleasant out there at the moment.”
Charity shops and home improvement stores bucking the trend.
Some shops have been able to boost trade off the back of the current economic climate, with Oxfam in Peach Street reporting good sales and Wokingham Décor proving popular with people delaying selling their homes.
Oxfam manager Claire Mingham-Smith said the charity’s eco-friendly items and Christmas cards had sold well, adding the shop was selling its Christmas range at half price.
Eddie Flint, owner of Wokingham Décor in Peach Street, said the shop was benefiting from the drop in the number of people buying houses.
He said rather than moving people are concentrating on improving their homes and DIY stores such as his would benefit.
Jan Rixon, owner of the TG Art Gallery in Peach Street, agreed with Mr Flint, saying she had seen a number of people looking to improve their homes with pictures from the gallery.
Before Christmas, The Wokingham Times spoke with Alan Bluhm, owner of Rococo jewellers in Bush Walk, who said he was very pleased with early sales.
Mr Bluhm was still in a festive mood this week and said the Christmas period had gone particularly well.
He said: “Christmas trading was very good this year.
“Our range of Danish bead bracelets proved very popular.
“I’m not sure about the future, but am happy about Christmas.”
- Where did you shop during the festive period? Is the credit crunch encouraging you to shop locally? Have your say.