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Frozen Gravesend assets

PUBLISHED: 12:07 30 December 2010

Snow and icy conditions in Gravesend hampered trade in the lead up to Christmas and New Year

Snow and icy conditions in Gravesend hampered trade in the lead up to Christmas and New Year

Archant

THE hopes of struggling town centre traders were dashed this Christmas after snow and Arctic conditions caused a seismic drop in business.

Sally Salon Services store manager Bernice Cosgrove and sales assistant Sandra Thompson

The devastating blizzard conditions at the start of the month along with the Saturday before Christmas - traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year - kept customers away.

Bernice Cosgrove, manager of Sally Salon Services, Windmill Street, said the first hit of snow crippled her trade.

She said: “That first week, we must have been down 80 per cent. We have tried to encourage things by holding special’s days and running offers but you just can’t make it up. The problem builds because the salons in town can’t open so they don’t need supplies, which hits us. Christmas is usually our busiest time as everyone wants to get their hair done for the holidays.”

Neighbouring store Munns was similarly affected.

Owner John Munns said: “We lost a few days to the snow - we were open but it was just so quiet. I haven’t been able to look at the specifics yet but it could be as bad as 50 per cent down on what we hoped for. Of course this time of year is so important to businesses and it is not like when the snow hits you can save on other things, rents still have to be paid, bills and wages. There is no bad weather discount.”

Charity stores in the town were also hit hard.

Zoe Thompson, manager of the two EllenorLions stores on New Road believes the charity lost between £3000 and £4000 due to the weather.

She said: “Many of our volunteers are over 70 and I actually told them not to risk coming in so we had to close for a few days. For a charity like us that amount of money is a really big deal.

Mike Giblin, area manager for British Heart Foundation furniture and electrical stores said the Gravesend store had been badly affected by the weather.

He said: “The worst element of it is we cannot get out to collect donations. Our donations are probably down around 50 per cent and it is because we simply can’t get our vehicles out to many of the streets we would like to.

Nicky Blanchard, general manager of The St Georges Centre confirmed her clients were feeling the pinch, adding: “Footfall has been down on last year, as have car parking figures and the number of visits to Santa’s Grotto. It is not just the snow but it has been so cold I think people are more likely to look to area where they can do all their shopping indoors.

Sabri Marsauoi, manager of Thamesgate shopping centre, reported footfall in the shopping centre down 3.5 per cent for December compared with last year.

Bluewater shopping centre has been struggling to keep to entice shoppers to brave the Arctic conditions, employing 160 staff to clear the car parks and entrances of snow and ice.

Andrew Parkinson, Bluewater general manager said: “We had the four mega days, where Bluewater is open from 9am to 11pm to help people finish their Christmas shopping.

“People are determined not to leave friends and family disappointed at Christmas. Consequently, at the first sign of a break in the weather they continue their Christmas shopping.

“So, whilst footfall was affected on Saturday (before Christmas), Sunday was very positive with everything returning to normal.”

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