Fringe Box



Post Christmas Shopping Brisk But Trade Still Below Pre-Pandemic Levels

Published on: 30 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 30 Dec, 2021

The Friary and Marks and Spencer were busy, “rushed off our feet” said staff.

By Hugh Coakley

Shopping in town was brisk yesterday (Wednesday, December 29) with shopkeepers reporting trade being busy but not at the levels seen pre-pandemic and they are adjusting the stock they are holding and their sales expectations accordingly.

Shopkeepers said trade was brisk in town but footfall is still down from pre-pandemic times.

One staff member in a major chain said they would have four deliveries a week pre-pandemic but only two a week now. A member of staff in House of Fraser said they were “busier than usual” but they had lost some concessions in the store and they “don’t have the stock we had before”.

People bought early for Christmas. Staff at clothes chain, Gant, said the week around Black Friday was their busiest period, busier than Christmas.

Numbers of shoppers in town is down by as much as 30 per cent for the year to date compared to 2019. A pre-Christmas rally, with footfall down by only 11 per cent down compared to the same pre-Christmas week in 2019, was welcomed by the shopkeepers.

What was a traditional mad dash after Christmas for the sales, with shoppers ladened with bargains, was no longer in evidence. And national reports confirm that there has been a 32 per cent drop in footfall compared to 2019.

Shoppers and visitors in the town seemed happy though.

Local residents Neil and Nancy Barham with their children William and Noah met with friends, Ina Graham with children Ossian and Katie. With no plans to make purchases, they said: “Guildford is a lovely place to visit”.

Nancy Barham, in town with her husband and two children, said: “I like coming in to Guildford. We are local and we popped in to have a look around and have an ice cream with the children.”

Sarah and Mario sat outside in the unusually mild weather, having a coffee and cake. Mario said: “We have no plans to buy anything. We are in town to get out of the house and to have a coffee.”

The Friary shopping centre and Marks and Spencer both looked very busy. A staff member in M&S said they had been “rushed off their feet” throughout the Christmas period.

Homeware shops and luxury items were particularly busy with the Tunsgate Quarter benefitting from the upswing. There were more shoppers in the concourse, browsing and passing through, than ever seen previously, a positive sign for the shopping centre which has seemed quiet since it opened in 2018.

Upswing for the Tunsgate Quarter with footfall in the concourse higher than seen before.

Oka the furniture and home accessories shop, luxury watches from Tagheuer and Indigo Moon Holistics, crystals and healing, all reported better than expected sales.

Staff at Oka, one of the largest units in Tunsgate Quarter, said: “We are so busy we don’t have to have sales events and we are hitting our targets.”

Indigo Moon Holistics co-Owner, Georgina Winfrow, said they had queues out the door before Christmas. “We are thrilled with the reception we have had, how much people love our shop and what we do.”

House of Fraser looked quiet but staff said they had been “busier than usual”.

But it was not all positive, Surrey Home and Gifts in Swan Lane were holding a closing down sale. Shop owner, Emily, said they were relocating to Crowthorne where rents and business rates were much cheaper. “Guildford town centre is too expensive” said Emily, “There is only one vacant shop in Crowthorne but look at the empty shops in Guildford.”

Surrey Home and Gifts shop is relocating to Crowthorne after seven years in Swan Lane. “Guildford is too expensive” said the owner.


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