According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), overall retail sales were flat in December making it the worst December performance since 2008. However, many independent cookshops seemed to have bucked the trends with good Christmas performances.
Tom Carter, director at Potters Cookshop, Hockley (the current UK gia winner) described “a phenomenal Christmas”, with increased footfall, making December “the best month we’ve ever had.” The retailer also saw growth in its online business (with online sales about 25% of business). Tom added: “We’ve had a good year considering how hard it is out there.”
In neighbouring Suffolk, The Woodbridge Kitchen Company had “a brilliant Christmas – more or less the best in ten years,” said owner Paul Venediger, with the shop’s last quarter up by10%. Paul acknowledged that the town has received “huge publicity” since coming second place for English towns in the Great British High Street Awards. “Footfall and transactions were up,” stated Paul, who observed: “More consumers are realising they need to support local indies or they’ll loose them.”
Paul also recognised the importance of outstanding customer service, a good balance of stock, and a boost from having more “lower ticket items”. The two “standout” star sellers were locally produced Bev’s Beeswax Wraps and Chilly’s Bottles. Revol from ICTC and Bakedin Kits were also strong.
At Dinghams, director Becca Hardingham said that Christmas was “good overall,” elaborating: “Salisbury was up while Winchester was down, so it evened out.” Becca is noticing community support in Salisbury as more people are shopping locally. A ticket only customer evening at the end of November at Dinghams in Salisbury was particularly successful. Some 50 customers enjoyed tasting steaks with Tramontina, demonstrations by KitchenAid, Bamix and Microplane, nibbles and wine tasting (as the shop now stocks wine) in the café, and a Gisella Graham masterclass on ‘how to decorate your Christmas tree.’ Becca refects: “We had lots of special offers and there was a great atmosphere.”
At The Kitchen Shop, Lichfield, sales via Trouva (the online platform for independent boutiques) contributed to a busy Christmas. At Cooking Fantastic, near Harrogate, owner Tanya Umpleby described festive trade as “fabulous,” thanks to the shop’s out of town location on her family farm, along with its cafe. “We did much better than if we’d been on the high street – people like being able to park easily.”
Paul Geoghegan, owner of The Kitchen Range, West Wickham was “pleased” with the shop’s Christmas trade: “December as a whole was a little better than last year and our sale has meant a steady start to January.” Gift highlights for the shop were re-usable coffee cups from various suppliers and stainless steel straws.
Sadly, Hebden Cook and Coffee Company, Hebden Bridge is among those indies that suffered this Christmas. Continuing road works (as a result of the devastating floods of Boxing Day 2015) and rail strikes on “every Saturday for the last three months has kept visitors away”, reported co-owner Val Cryne. Despite what Val describes as “a strong group of local supporters,” the lack of footfall contributed to a “dire” Christmas. “Everyone in the town is affected,” she confirmed.
Top: Dinghams Salisbury’s customer festive evening included demonstrations by KitchenAid.