The owners of The Alfred pub and forthcoming Borough Beer House have told me that as soon as they have any firm news they will let me know. I suggest you monitor the website and their Facebook page.
A little more information which I thought you’d be interested in, from the brand manager of COOK, whose brother, incidentally, lives here.
Their new Seven Stars, East Street, branch will house between 20 and 23 freezers on the shop floor, together with a new ‘kids’ corner’ and most importantly customer parking at both the front and back of the shop. One reason I don’t frequent the Downing Street shop is the fact that there is no adjacent parking and the need to get the food home as quickly as possible.
I didn’t know that as a company they offer local community groups a discount of 30 per cent for an event for 20 people or more and offer a 10 per cent discount for all new parents for 12 months.
Also COOK recently won Speciality Retailer of the Year award at the Retail Week Awards. Charlotte Hardie, editor in chief at Retail Week, said: “COOK was described by the judges as a true innovator and highly impressive both commercially and socially. It’s shown brilliant growth whilst maintaining its values.”
When COOK re-opens on Friday, December 1, they are hoping to have a local choir singing carols, so if you know of a choir who might be interested let me or the Downing Street manager know.
Talking of Christmas, as I said I would, the Christmas Lights Spectacular is this Saturday, November 18 in Gostrey Meadow. As reported in the Herald they have a Take That tribute band performing and, as yet, an undisclosed ‘someone’ up their sleeve to switch on the lights at 4.30pm. They wouldn’t tell me who. Not an occasion everyone gets particularly excited about but a notable annual event all the same.
Christmas Fair & Market
The Christmas Fair is at the Maltings on Wednesday and Thursday, November 22 and 23, and the Farnham Christmas Market is taking place on Sunday, December 10. Let’s make these events the best in 2023. Going on the numbers at the torchlight procession many of the events could be very well attended this year.
Returning to the Christmas Lights Spectacular for a moment, I asked how the council selected the special celebrity to switch on the lights. It is a balance between their likely popularity, availability and cost. The town council remain very concerned about finances. There was something recently that I questioned the need to spend on but in the main I think they are doing a fantastic job.
I am told by a council staff member that although more than 250 applications have been received for stalls at the Christmas Market the number of stalls will be capped at 150. How do they choose who is going to be selected? Well, date of application, type of stall, quality of merchandise and applicant’s postcode are some of the criteria. They try and get a good blend of different types of stalls but prioritise gift stalls over food to ensure it’s not a replica of the food market.
Free car parking
All council car parks will be free after 3pm on Thursday, December 20. Possibly a bit too close to Christmas. Many will have bought a majority of their presents by then and are less likely to visit the town.
The town does offer a fantastic range of merchandise. One of my friends told me that her daughter and her friends visited for the weekend shortly before Christmas last year and were blown away by the selection and price of gifts they bought here when compared to south-west London where they lived. We are indeed lucky.
Planning for Christmas
I am sure all retailers plan for their Christmas, but it doesn’t always happen. Talking to someone who works for a major leading London department store I am told plans start being made in early spring, but online references aren’t made until August. I hasten to add I am not suggesting you just shop on the internet.
One independent retailer in Farnham reviews their whole Christmas season straight after the New Year celebrations, before the end of the sales period. They test products in August and September and bring them forward on the shelves at the beginning of November.
The manager of a shop selling food products told me they start raising the visibility of Christmas merchandise in September, taking orders in October.
A lot of shops use November 5 or Remembrance Sunday as the date after which they change their window displays and merchandising internally. Some charity shops get their Christmas cards in August, displaying late August, early September.
I would encourage you to utilise our local shops to the fullest. Yes, Farnham doesn’t offer every conceivable product but does have a superb range of independent shops for its size.
I will be back before Christmas but would say that next year is going to be pivotal for many businesses. Brightwells is due to open next year, and if it doesn’t, well, Surrey and Waverley might as well shut their doors now.
Those who end up trading in Brightwells’ 20 plus shops will bring further competition to the existing businesses. Talking to some shop owners they are looking at ways of diversifying, introducing services and products that relate to those that they currently offer.
Retailing analysis websites seem to vary in their forecasts for next year. There remains interest in the vacant shops on the market here, but activity is slower than earlier in the year.
I am hopeful that things will pick up.