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How was Christmas for indies?

Independent cookshops and housewares retailers have mixed reports of Christmas 2019, with some reflecting on overall consumer caution and some with suggestions of a slight post-election ‘Boris bounce’ in mid December.

At Lawsons (with four independent stores in Devon), Christmas sales were “down by about 1%” compared with 2018, with “wet and windy weather against us, especially on peak days,” notes md Liz Lawson. The retailer saw “a couple of bounces” in sales: one of which was Black Friday (up 37% on the Saturday of Black Friday weekend and 11% on Black Friday itself.) Sales also went up on Saturday December 14 after the general election, suggesting that the result sparked consumer confidence for some.

Above: Gift food did well for Lawsons.
Above: Gift food did well for Lawsons.

Lawson’s internet sales “took off well” (although only comprising around 6% of turnover) and the new initiative of a Sales leaflet delivered to households in mid December boosted sales of saucepans, knives and electricals. Gift food “continued to grow,” (with a focus on local producers) and tea towels and placemats featuring work by local artists were also popular.
KitchenAid sales went “very well thanks to good offers”.  Liz admits that Lawsons missed out on some other sales due to supply issues.

Late night trading in Totnes was successful when coinciding with the town’s Christmas market, with Lawsons taking “as much between 5-9 as during the day,” notes Liz.

Above: Devon-based artist Sarah Smalldon’s A-Z of Plymouth tea towel. Products by Sarah are among those selling well at Lawsons, which has a store in Plymouth.
Above: Devon-based artist Sarah Smalldon’s A-Z of Plymouth tea towel. Products by Sarah are among those selling well at Lawsons, which has a store in Plymouth.

At Cooks of Trentham (in the destination shopping village), owner Jacqui Bennett describes Christmas as “very different” to 2018, with consumers cautious of spending, and leaving festive shopping “later and later” in the month.

Meanwhile at La Cookshop at the Milkhope Centre, Blagdon in Northumberland (another shopping destination), owner Keith Crowther describes Christmas as “very good” following recent changes to the shop, which swapped round giftware and cookshop rooms (with a bigger focus on gifts, such as men’s cufflinks, socks, ladies’ bags and jewellery) and moving out of china and glassware. Although in a smaller space, cookware is “doing better,” says Keith, with improvements to footfall due to the visibility of gifts and a fantastic response to the shop’s changes from customers.

Keith notes that La Cookshop’s best trading day was the Saturday after the general election,” and that he has heard similar reports from other shops and reps. “It’s too much of a coincidence to say it’s not linked,” Keith acknowledges.

Above: Christmas trade was good at La Cookshop, showing “guarded improvement” for cookshop sales, says owner Keith Crowther.
Above: Christmas trade was good at La Cookshop, showing “guarded improvement” for cookshop sales, says owner Keith Crowther.

At Kooks Unlimited in Richmond, manager David Brendon-Douglas reports on “last minute buying.” The retailer experienced busy sales via Trouva but these were generally small orders. With the advent of The Offensive Weapons Act 2019, Kooks is no longer selling knives online and has lost sales as a result, with knife blocks having been a bestselling gift.

In Kent, Kim Foster, owner of Copperfields of Whitstable says Christmas trade was “slow to start and down on last year, but we had great support from the community and we were busy between Christmas and New Year due to the many Airbnbs and holiday homes bringing an influx of people and making it feel like the town was ten years ago.”

Above: Part of a Christmas window display at Copperfield of Whitstable.
Above: Part of a Christmas window display at Copperfield of Whitstable.

Kim recognises that Brexit has influenced consumer confidence, with “cautious” spending meaning his figures have been down over the past year. However, he is looking forward to making significant investments into the business in 2020, with planning permission for a restaurant and cookery school next to the shop.

 

Top: Copperfields’ Christmas windows – the double fronted business is set to expand over the year ahead.

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