Winchester businesses divided over Christmas market benefits

Andover Advertiser: As previously reported, the city received 37 coaches on November 30 with many businesses saying they’ve never been busier. As previously reported, the city received 37 coaches on November 30 with many businesses saying they’ve never been busier.

WINCHESTER businesses are divided over the benefit of the Cathedral’s Christmas market.

They have been battling to woo customers, with many blaming poor sales on the cathedral’s festive operations.

High Street stores resorted to big discounts before Christmas Day in a last-minute sales push.

Businesses at the Broadway and lower end of the High Street reported strong custom while those off-centre in Parchment and Jewry streets and at the higher end of the High Street complained about footfall.

As previously reported, the city received 37 coaches on November 30 with many businesses saying they’ve never been busier.

Louise Woollacott, assistant manager at Maison Blanc, said: “As soon as the market opened we were heaving. We get all of the passing trade by the buses, the coach parties have been brilliant for us because they get off, have a cup of coffee and some breakfast before they hit the stalls.”

For others, the ice rink and chalets in The Close have forced heavy discounting.

Sara Day, manager at The Edinburgh Woollen Mill, said: “We do have a sale this time every year but footfall is down quite a bit compared to last year. With the success of the Christmas market we should have plenty of customers but they seem to think the High Street stops beyond the cathedral.”

For some businesses the market has actually caused problems. Simon Digweed, hairdresser at The New Bibas on St George’s Street, said: “We’ve had so many problems with customers cancelling appointments on Saturdays because they can’t find anywhere to park that I’ve ended up having to work Sundays just so they can get into town when it’s less busy.”

Linda Glover, manager at J Collins & Son jewellers on Parchment Street, said: “It’s been absolutely disappointing. People come here for the Christmas market. We all thought it was a good idea and it’s proved popular but a lot of local people complain about there being no parking.

She added: “Everyone’s been complaining about the lack of business, even people in the High Street, because it’s so busy and it’s becoming less enjoyable for local clientele.”

However, for others, popping the sale signs in the window is just another way of staying on top of competitors at a time when rivalry is at its peak.

Justin Mariner, deputy manager at Shoon, said: “It’s been very good, the market’s helped out a lot. We’ve seen an increase in footfall since last year and it’s a good precedent for 2014.”

The upper High Street received just 29,310 people in the first two weeks of December, compared to 195,710 on the lower High Street. While footfall had increased by 4.7 per cent across both the upper and lower parts on 2012, the upper section received just 13 per cent.

National media reports of a mad post-Christmas rush didn’t happen in Winchester and, while overall there was an increase on last year of over 3,000 people from Boxing Day to December 28, the upper High Street saw a decline, taking only 11.4 per cent of footfall compared to 13.8 per cent last year and 14.5 per cent in 2011.

Debenhams manager, Fay Johnson, said post-Christmas sales had never been better and customers were keen to snap up the half-price deals. “Boxing Day was extremely busy. Customers queued up ahead of our 7am opening.”

Alison Wells, manager at the Body Shop, said: “The first two weeks were great but we were waiting for that hit. Boxing Day was good but we took less than last year. Everyone loves coming to Winchester for Christmas, but I don’t think they don’t come here to shop.”

Lotti Eagles, spokeswoman for Winchester BID, was upbeat: “Winchester has appeared particularly good this year, with busy streets, happy visitors, higher footfall and some excellent spending stories, with some of the new specialist independents doing particularly well.

“The restaurant business has been extremely good this year, whilst some of the service sector businesses and high end retail do rather better in the post-Christmas and New Year period.

“We undertake two detailed studies - a major survey of visitors, and our normal quarterly business barometer, and of course this year we are also awaiting the independent retail study that the city council has funded. Once these data are available we will have a clear and accurate picture of businesses activity over Christmas and New Year.”

The cathedral did not respond to requests for comment.

Comments (4)

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1:04pm Thu 2 Jan 14

The Smythe says...

The Christmas market is a total pain. The congestion it causes just so the money grabbing cathedral can line it's coffers even more is ridiculous, the city is not big enough to cope which such an influx of people. It's been said it's one of the best Xmas markets in Europe, really?! Have the reviewers never been to Cologne or Munich?! Only about 8 of the stalls were even selling Christmasy things, I mean, if I want to buy a set of hedge clippers I'll go to a DIY shop not to a stall run by 2 French blokes at a supposed Christmas market! What a joke!
The Christmas market is a total pain. The congestion it causes just so the money grabbing cathedral can line it's coffers even more is ridiculous, the city is not big enough to cope which such an influx of people. It's been said it's one of the best Xmas markets in Europe, really?! Have the reviewers never been to Cologne or Munich?! Only about 8 of the stalls were even selling Christmasy things, I mean, if I want to buy a set of hedge clippers I'll go to a DIY shop not to a stall run by 2 French blokes at a supposed Christmas market! What a joke! The Smythe

1:27pm Thu 2 Jan 14

jonboyafc says...

The worst thing about shopping in Winchester now is the lack of space caused by the hideous, tatty, market stalls that occupy the centre of the High Street most days. They make the place look cheap and unattractive and are a huge obstacle to free movement.
The worst thing about shopping in Winchester now is the lack of space caused by the hideous, tatty, market stalls that occupy the centre of the High Street most days. They make the place look cheap and unattractive and are a huge obstacle to free movement. jonboyafc

3:43pm Thu 2 Jan 14

Barney123 says...

I have given up with 'proper' shopping to Winchester and travel to Southampton or Basingstoke where I can walk from shop to shop without having to navigate through tacky market stalls on the High Street.

Do wonder to what extent the rate-paying shop owners think about the general goods stalls selling duvets, pillows and the like.
I have given up with 'proper' shopping to Winchester and travel to Southampton or Basingstoke where I can walk from shop to shop without having to navigate through tacky market stalls on the High Street. Do wonder to what extent the rate-paying shop owners think about the general goods stalls selling duvets, pillows and the like. Barney123

11:58am Fri 3 Jan 14

griffon says...

I thought the market was not as good as previous years with a fair amount of over-priced tat but it was no doubt a nice little earner for the cathedral.
I thought the market was not as good as previous years with a fair amount of over-priced tat but it was no doubt a nice little earner for the cathedral. griffon

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