Colchester: Cold snap hits town centre’s Christmas trade

SEVERE weather conditions across the region are pointing to a bleak winter for many high street retailers as their customers decide to stay inside and shop online.

The Essex Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has reported that the number of people braving the icy conditions to do their Christmas shopping has “plummeted” over the last week.

Chairman of the FSB Iain Wicks said: “Most small businesses can cope with a day or two of adverse weather but a prolonged period such as the current conditions can be a major problem.”

Peter Donaldson, manager of Red Lion Books in Colchester High Street, said: “Yesterday trade was down by about 50% compared to what it should be at this time of year and today it’s looking to be down by about 70%.

“There are very few people braving the snow and business has been decimated. A lot of people can’t get out of their villages and the A12 has been bad.

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“You can’t blame people for not coming into town and it makes sense that non-essential travel is not advised. As a retailer you have to remain optimistic and hope that people are putting off their trip to Colchester for another day and that you’ll have a good week to make up for it.”

Arthur Tolmie, co-owner of Xtreme Gaming in the High Street, said: “It was dead yesterday and it is dead again today – nobody is coming into town.”

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Lucy Saddler, a manager at Mann’s Music in the High Street, said: “We were open for late night Christmas shopping and we only had two people through the door so it really wasn’t worth paying the staff overtime to stay open.

“The shop has been very quiet over the last couple of days and I think people have been buying their Christmas presents through other means. We have seen an increase in our Amazon orders so people are definitely shopping online instead of coming into town.”

Mr Wicks added: “We are getting reports from our retail members that footfall has plummeted as customers stay at home and there is a worry that people will switch their shopping to the internet with a long term impact for independent small shops. Stock deliveries are also being delayed or not getting through at all.

“Other business sectors are badly suffering with courier companies, haulage firms, taxi firms and similar businesses having major problems with trade plummeting at a time when it is normally reaching a peak.

“Hotels, pubs, restaurants and leisure facilities are seeing bookings cancelled which could be particularly bad news as we start entering the Christmas party season.”

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