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Town shopkeepers turn 'season of excess' on its head with 'four gift rule'

PUBLISHED: 07:45 28 November 2019

David and Craig at Woodys of Woodbridge  Picture: PROMINENT

David and Craig at Woodys of Woodbridge Picture: PROMINENT

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A Suffolk market town's retailers are asking hard-pressed shoppers to reject festive over-indulgence in favour of "magical, marvellous" gifts with a low carbon footprint.

Mandy Leeson of Vanil  Picture: PROMINENTMandy Leeson of Vanil Picture: PROMINENT

Woodbridge shopkeepers have given their backing a social media campaign which is urging consumers to stick to a 'four gift rule' and pledge to give loved ones just four presents - something they want, something they need, something to eat and something to read.

The message - which is being adopted for Small Business Saturday on November 30 - is aimed at encouraging shoppers to look for quality over quantity.

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James Lightfoot, chairman of business and tourism organisation Choose Woodbridge, said it was very easy to go overboard at Christmas - particularly where presents are concerned.

"More often than not this results in a living room strewn with crumpled wrapping paper and ripped-open boxes and a mountain of gifts, half of which have been cast aside," he said.

Paul Venediger at Woodbridge Kitchen Company  Picture: PROMINENTPaul Venediger at Woodbridge Kitchen Company Picture: PROMINENT

"It would be easy for all businesses to push the overindulgence that accompanies the festivities in December.

"But actually, what Woodbridge businesses are saying is that as a town we can provide you with magical, marvellous presents that tick all four of the gift buying boxes and we are right on the doorstep.

"This means a low carbon footprint - and a green Christmas instead of a white one."

Small Business Saturday was a "fabulous" opportunity to support independent retailers, he said.

Mandy Leeson of Vanil  Picture: PROMINENTMandy Leeson of Vanil Picture: PROMINENT

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"Woodbridge has an abundance of exciting shops to explore where you can find presents which you simply couldn't buy online."

Now in its seventh year in the UK, the campaign has grown significantly, with an estimated £812m spent in small businesses across the UK on 2018's Small Business Saturday - an 8% increase on last year.

Shopkeeper Mandy Leeson of Vanil lifestyle accessories store in Church Street, said the town was the place to come for "really unique" gifts.

"Christmas sales can account for between a third and nearly two-thirds of a retailer's annual turnover and a bad Christmas can spell disaster for a small business," she added. "That's why we are urging people to support their local independents."

Paul Venediger, of Thoroughfare kitchenware store The Woodbridge Kitchen Company, pointed out that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business. "Independent shops also often stock items which are made locally and aren't available elsewhere."

One of the most popular gift purchases at the moment in his store were its Chilly's Bottles and AnySharp knife sharpener.

Delicatessen owners David Thrower and Craig Worlledge of Woody's Farm Shop, also in The Thoroughfare, said small businesses also offered a welcoming, personal services which high street chains couldn't.

"What's more, it's the ethical choice. Why would you want to buy veg that have been flown halfway round the world or wrapped in layers of plastic? Everything we stock is local, so it has a short field-to-fork journey and we are entirely plastic-free," said Craig.

Jules Button of The Woodbridge Emporium book store on The Thoroughfare said they felt very passionately that every child should be given a book for Christmas. "Which is why, this year, we are giving away 100 books to children on Sunday, December 22. This is part of a Icelandic tradition called Jolabokaford, where every child is gifted a book to read at bedtime on Christmas Eve."

She added: "Streamlining presents to just four gifts per person is a wonderful message - and it also makes us think harder about what it is we are giving."

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