North West Wales

Crunch Christmas: Reality bites for Bangor and Llandudno shops

Christmas food
Image caption 'Turkey and tinsel' events in Llandudno helps trade say business people in the town

Retailers in Gwynedd and Conwy report mixed trading in the run-up to Christmas, with some saying shoppers are more wary about how they spend.

Some shops in both Bangor and Llandudno report a steady stream of customers but others say it is extremely quiet - and there is so far no snow to blame for the poor turnout.

Even the busiest say people seem to be browsing a lot more, and when they are spending hard-earned cash it seems everyone is more cautious.

The manager of the Victoria shopping centre at Llandudno, Sue Nash, said shops in the centre reported "good or very good" trading over the past few weeks.

"The footfall has been very good and although people are maybe more wary they are spending," she said.

"They seem to be browsing a lot more though and coming back to buy something once they've shopped around."

Llandudno might have the pull other places lack because it has a tourist industry all year around with 'turkey and tinsel' events over Christmas, she added.

Sue Morris has run the Merrymoon gift shop in Upper Mostyn Street for eight years.

The independent retailer said the shop's best year was in 2009 and trade has steadily dropped off since then.

"There are fewer customers and the average spend has also gone down.

"It used to be about £10-£15 but now it's around £5.

"It's a lovely job though meeting all the people, and I'd hate not doing it," she added.

Kate Jones is chair of a business group which comes under community group Balchder Bangor (Bangor Pride).

"One of the warmest autumns since records began meant that some of the fashion shops were struggling to shift their coats and hats but with the weather now getting colder hopefully things will pick up," she said.

"Christmas (shopping) was slow to start but seems to be picking up with more people out shopping this week."

Looking forward to the new year Ms Jones said group members were realistic.

"The feeling is that we're in for quite a difficult time for some months and then there should be improvement hopefully by the middle of the year.

"There is already a bit of movement with new shops opening on the high street so there is a lot to be positive about."

Traed Bach (Little Feet) children's shoe shop opened in July this year.

Proprietor Emma Evans said people were still getting to hear about them, and up to this week things have been going well.

"This week has been really quiet but maybe it's an in-between time and maybe the sudden cold weather has put people off.

"We caught the back-to-school trade in August, but then in October when I thought I'd be selling boots it was just too warm for people to want to buy them."

Gwynedd county councillor John Wynn Jones is chairman of Balchder Bangor.

He said the overall feeling he got was that there is "confidence amongst traders... although they all accept that the economy is extremely fragile".

"We want to promote the idea of shopping locally in Bangor. The city's profile has improved and Bangor is lucky to have such a wide range of shops, with more on the way.

"Yes, there are empty shops but I was in Cardiff recently and there are empty shops there too - it's not a problem specific to Bangor."

The Mostyn Estates is a significant property owner in Llandudno.

Managing director Edward Hiller said he was encouraged over the past six months that "three or four" new tenants had been found for the town.

"We've had interest from Cafe Nero, Country Casuals and Waitrose, which might be going against the general trend - but long may it last," he said.

"The setting of Llandudno, with the promenade, the extraordinary bay and the high street's Victorian look all rolled into one gives visitors a shopping 'experience'.

"It's down to a combination of a partnership between traders, landlords and the council working together to encourage confidence in the town," he added.

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