Christmas trade holds up in St Albans district

IT was a jolly good Christmas for traders in St Albans and Harpenden whose tills kept ringing thanks to shoppers who came in their thousands in search of the perfect presents and Boxing Day bargains.

Despite the bad weather retailers have reported strong takings over the festive season and said their sales had been boosted by last-minute shoppers.

On the Saturday before Christmas 35,000 people flocked to the Maltings Shopping Centre, which was the heaviest footfall recorded throughout the year.

It was also teeming with shoppers on Christmas Eve with just under 27,000 people pounding the pavements and on Boxing Day, while there was reduced opening hours, the centre welcomed approximately 13,000 visitors.

Centre manager Phil Corrigan said: “Footfall was on a par with last year and car park use was up which, given the weather, was very encouraging.

“Some of the traders said Christmas fell late but in the last couple of weeks there was some very good trade. Overall it was an encouraging end to the year.”

Savvy shoppers were also able to take advantage of the extra city-centre market trading days arranged by St Albans district council every day between December 19 and Christmas Eve.

Most Read

Cllr Beric Read, portfolio holder for community engagement and localism at the council, said: “We had more market days than ever before and more market stalls than ever before. Some of the traders said it was the best they have ever done leading up to Christmas.

“This is something we would do again next year and hopefully we can have even more stalls. The market is something that is a draw for St Albans in terms of shopping and finding something different.”

While many people may have chosen to purchase their gifts online, the Herts Advertiser launched its Home for the Holidays campaign last month which aimed to encourage people to use local retailers for all their Christmas needs.

Herts Ad editor Matt Adams said: “We really wanted to raise awareness of the importance of shopping locally, especially at this time of the year, and it looks as though our readers did their bit to support our independent retailers this Christmas, which is fantastic news.”

In Harpenden, Paul Monks, owner of independent clothing store Purple, said he believed people left it later this year to do their shopping but it had still been one of his busiest Christmases.

He said: “I think everybody left it quite late this year because the weather conditions made it not feel like Christmas for a long period of time.

“Christmas fell oddly but that didn’t seem to affect us, people were still out there buying presents. The economy is slowly turning and people are having more consumer confidence.”

Sunday opening in Harpenden High Street in the run-up to Christmas received a mixed response but the December Farmers’ Market is said to have helped attract the crowds.

Keith Lunn, owner of Breathing Space, said: “Christmas trade has been good with an improvement on last Christmas throughout the business.

“Sunday opening was mixed but the last Sunday which also featured the Farmers’ Market was very good.

“Overall it continues to be challenging times but I’m pleased with the fact we’ve grown our business year on year and we have plans in place to maintain the momentum into 2013.”