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Season of mixed fortunes for the Island’s retailers

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JERSEY’S retailers had mixed fortunes over the Christmas period, with clothing stores seeming to struggle compared to other shops.

Picture: DAVID FERGUSON.

With more Islanders turning towards online shopping to fill their Christmas stockings, concerns have grown over the future of Jersey’s high street in recent years.

A number of shop owners surveyed by the JEP reported that their sales had held up during the festive period and that they had adapted as the retail sector had evolved.

But David Cullen, the owner of Roulette clothing, reported a decline in sales and was concerned for the high street in general, calling for the States to do more to help businesses such as his.

Mr Cullen said that he believed free parking on Saturdays and additional taxes for landlords who allow retail space to remain vacant should be introduced.

‘Compared to last year I think we will be there or thereabouts but about five per cent down,’ he said.

‘In terms of online retail we were about ten per cent up this year but I’m a traditional retailer. It is difficult to compete with the big online retailers who have huge resources.

‘I think the government need to do something to help retail. We need more footfall.’

He added: ‘There are large units which are empty on the high street, which means fewer people are going to come to the area. So, there should be an empty-shop tax to encourage landlords to let them out.

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‘I also think that parking should be free on Saturdays. There are always free spaces in town on Saturdays and during the recent Sunday opening lots more people came into town because of the free parking.’

Jon Holley, the owner of video games shop Seedee Jons, said that his business had done well but he had heard that clothes shops had been struggling.

‘It has been another bumper year for Seedee Jons. We have done a lot better since we moved back into town from the Powerhouse, so the location has made a difference,’ he said.

‘The reason why we have continued to do well is we have changed what we sell over the years. Originally we sold CDs and now that is only ten per cent of the business. Now we are selling more funky items and games.

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‘We did well throughout the Christmas period, we were busy from November onwards and now we are busy with our sales period.

‘We sell a lot of vouchers as well. That’s about ten per cent of our business at this time.

‘I understand that some shops are not doing so well at this time, though. I think the clothes shops are struggling. What happens is people will go into their shops, try something on and then buy it online more cheaply.’

Gerald Voisin, owner of Voisins department store, said that sales this year were ‘pretty average’.

‘For us it was a very much a last-minute Christmas. In the last few days before Christmas it was very busy and on Christmas Eve it was extremely busy,’ he said.

‘Overall it was pretty average in terms of sales. We weren’t expecting a stellar Christmas but we weren’t expecting a disaster either. We are busy now that we are moving into the sales.

‘When you consider all the uncertainty that is going on in the world at the moment, with Brexit and things like that, we are quite happy with how things went.’

Ben Stone, general manager of electronics store Fortuna Euronics, said that his store was ‘extremely busy’ during the festive period, which he thought was due to a successful marketing campaign.

‘We were busy in November when we had a Black Friday promotion and then it died down a little in the first few weeks of December,’ he said.

‘The week before Christmas it really picked up again and we are in our sales now. I think we have certainly been busier than last year. We have done a lot of advertising this year, which I think has improved footfall. It’s nice to see that people are still shopping locally.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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