Southend Standard Article December 2009

Shoppers keep tills jingling all the way

RETAILERS are anticipating a bumper Christmas shopping period.

With just 11 days remaining until the big day, even those less organised will be thinking of what to buy family and friends.

So, as the most important month for retailers whizzes by, how are shops across south Essex faring?

Most reported sales picked up as December 1 passed, while some shopping centres have seen a whopping increase in visitors since the start of November.

The Victoria shopping centre, in Southend High Street, is reaping the benefits of its multi-million pound makeover and new stores, with 53,000 more people visiting last month, compared to the previous year.

Jonathan Poole, manager of the centre, said: “So far it’s been superb.

“The number of shoppers for November was 10 per cent up on last year. December has started even stronger and is 12 to 14 per cent up on last year, so far.

“This is backed up by very positive feedback from our stores like Next, Peacocks, Wilkinson and Argos.

“They’re all trading exceptionally well and we seem to be bucking the trend. Our smaller traders are also telling us this. We’re expecting it to continue in the next couple of weeks.”

Basildon’s Eastgate Shopping Centre has also been performing well, according to spokesman Mike Horton. He said: “The Christmas shopping season has been going well so far, despite all the economic doom and gloom you read about.

“Most of the reports we have had from our shopkeepers so far, have been really positive.

“People also know they will get a bargain when they go shopping this year. The sales normally don’t start until after Christmas, but most of the shops already have all sorts of special offers available.”

Individual traditional retailers, like Havens department store, in Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff, are also prospering after a difficult year.

Owner Nigel Havens said: “We have doubled our turnover on online sales in November compared to last year, and are doing the same for December.

“Retail has been challenging for the past year, but it has picked up. We are 16.4 per cent up on this time last year, which is very promising.”

Another family department store, Ravens, in Clifftown Road, Southend, is also busier, but has still experienced a difficult year.

Owner Neil Raven said: “We’ve seen an uplift in the past week or two. We almost had to get to December to start seeing people Christmas shopping.

“It’s a big month for us, but we’re not sure if it will be enough.

“It’s not easy at the moment and I think we will be happy to match what we did last Christmas.”

Shoppers, it seems, are thinking carefully about what they buy, but are not as worried as last Christmas.

Mr Poole, from the Victoria shopping centre, added “People are not as cautious as last year.

“The downturn last year was really hitting home. Now they’re still being careful, but picking up bargains and going for it.”

David Shakespeare, manager of Knightswick shopping centre, on Canvey, agreed things were starting to pick up.

He said: “Canvey is always late Christmas shopping, but it is beginning to pick up now.

“We just don’t know how this season is going to be. We are all hoping for a good one, but nobody knows as it’s been a tough year.”

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