CAREFUL shoppers and bad weather saw East Lancashire retailers forced to wait for a sudden seasonal surge to put a Christmas smile on their faces.
Big shopping centres and small traders alike reported a quiet couple of weeks ahead of the festive break before a rush of gift buyers just before December 25 and bargain hunters in the days after as the sales started.
Loraine Jones, general manager of The Mall Blackburn, said the council subsidising a special bus service contributed to the best Boxing Day performance she could recall.
She revealed Debenhams in the town bucked a poor festive season for the national store chain with a Christmas cracker of a performance.
And at Burnley’s Charter Walk, Chris Gribben, reported the same story of quiet trading in early December and then rises in footfall and trade of up to 40 per cent for some his big retailers.
Clitheroe’s Town mayor Kevin Horkin said the bad weather had made buyers shop closer to home – a tale repeated by traders’ bosses in Accrington, Rawtenstall, Nelson and Colne.
Retail giants Oswaldtwistle Mills and Boundary Mill also celebrated a good end to 2013.
BLACKBURN shops saw an end of year bounce.
The Mall shopping centre had a quiet run-up to Christmas week but Friday, December 20 saw an 8,000 rise in footfall on 2012 and the Saturday after saw a nine per cent rise from the previous year’s 65,000 shoppers to more than 70,000.
Boxing Day was even better, up 10 per cent.
The post-Christmas sales went extremely well with Next, Boots, Primark and clothing retailers all reporting a bonanza.
The refurbished Debenhams bucked the store’s national trend with a festive boom.
Blackburn Market’s final week of 2013 saw an eight per cent increase in footfall.
Chamber of Trade president Tony Duckworth reported mixed results for small shops but good results for traders benefiting from spin-offs from TV shows on baking and sewing.
SMALL Burnley traders and the Charter Walk shopping centre reported a good Christmas and New Year.
Brian Hobbs, president of the borough’s Chamber of Trade, said: “Overall the centres of both Burnley and Padiham seemed to hold up well over the festive period.
“Customer numbers looked OK despite the appalling weather. The feeling is that it went pretty well.”
Charter Walk general manager Chris Gribben said: “The feedback has been very positive and those who improved sales compared to 2012 saw increases range from plus two per cent through to plus 40 per cent.
“Sales of toys, jewellery, watches, perfume and toiletries have gone well and the weather may have been to the advantage of the fashion retailers, some reporting the highest increases on last year.”
ACCRINGTON town centre had a mixed Christmas but Oswaldtwistle Mills reported a strong festive season.
Hyndburn Chamber of Trade secretary June Pickup said while one retailer recorded a five per cent fall in trade on 2012, others were talking of a two to three per cent increase.
One evening takeaway was celebrating a 9.2 per cent rise in takings, while menswear shops were down, but shoe retailers saw a two per cent rise.
She said: “It was a mixed season but overall Accrington shopping held its own.”
Oswaldtwistle Mills boss Boyd Hargreaves said: “The period after Christmas up to New Year was strong against the previous year.
“The way Christmas fell seems to have given people extra shopping days. The milder weather helped.”
COLNE saw a good festive season at Boundary Mill and four new stalls on its market.
A total fo 28 traders joined Pendle Council’s ‘Festive Fandango’ campaign offering vouchers for visiting five town centre shops.
Market manager Ian Varley said: “Four new stalls have opened including two Déjà Vu stalls selling retro items and clothing, a new pet stall, and Trawden Pottery.”
A spokesman for Boundary Mill said: “We had a steady season which really picked up just before and after Christmas.
“We haven’t had time to crunch the numbers because all our managers are so busy.
“It certainly up with the best festive seasons we have had in 30 years.”
Pendle enterprise boss Paul White said: “Colne has a great range of independent shops.
“Our Festive Fandango was well supported.”
RAWTENSTALL saw a busy Christmas and New Year.
Footfall was high with shops ranging from white goods and TV/technology retailer Simply
Electricals to its Bank Street neighbour Bolthole Gifts having a busy festive season.
Rossendale Chamber of Trade president David Gould said last night: “The town seemed busy over Christmas and up to New Year.
“I have an opticians shop in the centre and this is normally a quiet period for us but we were busy which suggest a lot of people coming into the town.
“It certainly seems to have been better than expected.
“The fruit and veg shops were full and I understand Simply Electrical and The Bolthole were very busy.
“I was out today and there seemed a real New Year buzz.”
Trader Eileen Ansar said the town centre had a quiet run-up to Christmas but seemed hold its own at the height of the festive season.
Coun Ansar, who runs Slick, a clothes and shoe shop, said: “The closure of Farm Foods at the Pendle Rise shopping centre hit early trade but shops seem to have done about the same as last year.
“The Lancashire Day with the Christmas lights switch-on was a big success with a lot of people in the town.
“Hopefully they realised that Nelson town centre is a gem and will come back.
“I think staging events is the way forward.”
Paul White, Pendle Council’s enterprise boss, highlighted Nelson’s independent shops and the success of the Festive Fandango campaign involving 12 retailers.
Nelson Market reported a steady Christmas with four new stalls opening.