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Festive boom time for Norwich shops

Christmas shopping in Norwich on Saturday December 11th 2010

Christmas shopping in Norwich on Saturday December 11th 2010

Archant Norfolk 2010

Norwich's traders are reporting a boom in business as festive shoppers brave the cold weather and recession and head into the city.

This weekend saw many shops celebrating some of their busiest buying days so far as customers took advantage of better weather and early sales to load up for Christmas. The success of businesses in the city are matching that of John Lewis, which reported an eight-year high of pre-Christmas trading the previous Saturday at its All Saints Green branch in Norwich, and reported continuing that trend this weekend with figures up on last year. Commenting on the buzz in the city, managing director of Jarrolds, Peter Mitchell said: “We’ve been on track for a very good day and we’ll be ahead of last year’s numbers.

“At the end of the snow trade has picked up very well and we’ll probably, for us, increase trade even into next weekend.”

Mr Mitchell was also positive about sales into January and said: “We’ve been saying for several years now that the beginning of next year’s going to be very tough, but I think we’ve got reasons to be optimistic and things will hold up reasonably well.

“I don’t think people are taking advantage of the low VAT as much as they did last year but generally people are just hunting for value.”

The standard rate of VAT is currently 17.5pc but will be increased to 20pc on January 4 next year and the change only applies to the standard VAT rate.

Assistant manager of the Norwich branch of Godfrey’s, Terry McGeachin, said: “This time last year it was dire but there’s definitely a difference in this year’s spending at Christmas to last year.

“Everyone seems to have gone mad for the Christmas trees this Saturday in preparation for the big day.”

And Paul Roy, buying and marketing director of Roys, said: “Despite the poor weather at the start of the week Roys of Bowthorpe’s Supermarket will put in a tremendous week well above last year. Roys of Magdalen Street relies on local trade too which was quite resilient during the poor weather and is showing some terrific improvements especially in the food and drink departments at the end of this week.”

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norwich Chamber of Commerce, said: “The economy is very much affected by business and consumer confidence. If consumers are feeling confident then the future for the economy will be more buoyant. When people get nervous they stop spending and then you have a spiral effect,”

Mrs Williams added: “The fashion and clothing trade is really strong at the moment, which is always a positive side for the economy. I think after Christmas there will be a fall off but a good Christmas will help retailers in an uncertain future.”

Some smaller independent traders have reported some of their busiest trading days ever.

Georgie Thorpe, co-founder of The Jade Tree in Elm Hill, said: “We’ve had one of our busiest days ever this month. Last year we took about a sixth of what we took this year on the same day.”

Miss Thorpe said it was important that the hard work and trade continues throughout the year, and added: “This year we’ve seen a response to promoting our business more and we seem to be a bit busier on the whole.”

Owner of Blue Jeans Co and Elements Menswear on Lower Goat Lane, David Finlay, said his business was up 20pc in comparison to this time last year.

“Some people have had enough of being miserable about things,” he said.

“Mortgage rates are particularly low, and obviously there are concerns for next year, but I think people are spending more before the VAT goes up, and shopkeepers are going to have to absorb that VAT rise.”

Encouraged by the imminent VAT rise, shopper Danielle Cobley from Cringleford said: “I’ve done all my Christmas shopping now, apart from a few stocking fillers. I did half online and half on the High street. Norwich is definitely busier, both weekends and weekdays.”

And Hethersett resident Sarah Wyatt agreed and said: “I finished my shopping fairly early to avoid the rush and had most done by the end of November. I had to get a few little bits in the city and it was just crazy.”

As well as the fashion industry, other less traditional businesses are seeing an increase in profits this year.

Shoppers in Norwich embraced the bustle on Saturday to get ready for Christmas. The Evening News caught up with the crowds to see what they have been spending this year.

Name: Gavin Bing

Age: 39

Lives: Hethersett

What are you shopping for today? Odds and ends

Have you spent more than last year? Yes

How much have you spent this year? Approximately £1500

How much did you spend last year? £1000

Is Norwich busier this year? Yes

What is the most expensive present you have bought this year? “I can’t say because it is still a secret.”

What is the cheapest present you have bought this year? “A pair of socks for £1.”

Name: Nicola Lawrence-Swann

Age:33

Lives: Hethersett

What are you shopping for today? Final Christmas items

Have you spent more than last year? Yes

How much have you spent this year? £1500

How much did you spend last year? £1000

Is Norwich busier this year? Yes

What is the most expensive present you have bought this year? “£80 on a child’s toy.”

What is the cheapest present you have bought this year? “£1 present from poundland.”

Name: Rachel Clynch

Age: 33

Lives: Sprowston

What are you shopping for today? Browsing

Have you spent more than last year? No

How much have you spent this year? £100

How much did you spend last year? £150

Is Norwich busier this year? Yes

What is the most expensive present you have bought this year? £50

What is the cheapest present you have bought this year? “A ‘Hello Kitty’ purse for £2.”

Name: James Nobbs

Age: 26

Lives: Sprowston

What are you shopping for today? Main Christmas presents and Secret Santa present

Have you spent more than last year? No

How much have you spent this year? £500

How much did you spend last year? £500

Is Norwich busier this year? “It’s the same.”

What is the most expensive present you have bought this year? “A phone for £150.”

What is the cheapest present you have bought this year? “A hat for £16.”

Name: Garry Fielding

Age: 25

Lives: Staying in Sprowston but does Christmas shopping in Norwich every year.

What are you shopping for today? Main Christmas presents

Have you spent more than last year? No

How much have you spent this year? £500

How much did you spend last year? £500

Is Norwich busier this year? “It’s about the same.”

What is the most expensive present you have bought this year? “£60 on perfume.”

What is the cheapest present you have bought this year? “£2.99 for a bubble blower.”

These next two vox’s can be used together or individually as there is also a family shot for them.

Name: Michelle Deeks, Her children are Bethany Deeks, 8, (left) and Chiara, 11 (right).

Age: 41

Lives: Great Yarmouth

What are you shopping for today? “Just getting ideas.”

Have you spent more than last year? “I haven’t spent anything yet, we leave it to the last minute.”

How much have you spent this year? £0

How much did you spend last year? £1000

Is Norwich busier this year? Yes

Name: Martin Gillings

Age: 43

Lives: Suffolk but regualr visitor to Norwich

What are you shopping for today? Browsing

Have you spent more than last year? “Not yet.”

How much have you spent this year? £0

How much did you spend last year? £1000

Is Norwich busier this year? Yes

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