Umbrellas may have been at the ready, but that didn’t put a dampener on spirits as hardy shoppers turned out to Keep it Local at the weekend.
The two-day Alnwick Christmas Market was declared a triumph by customers, traders and community groups.
While other local independent businesses reported takings considerably up on the coinciding Small Business Saturday, a national initiative which encourages people to support their local traders.
“Unfortunately, the raingods also decided to keep it local,” says Philip Angier, Alnwick Markets’ chairman. “A promising start to Saturday turned into a prolonged afternoon of rain – but our community musicians carolled with enthusiasm, especially a lively ensemble from St Michael’s School.
“The Christmas Market is very much an event by the community for the community. Several traders new to the festive event praised the atmosphere in the Market Place and the support from local people.”
Carlo Biagioni, who has spearheaded the promotion of Small Business Saturday in Alnwick on behalf of the Chamber of Trade, said: “It is true that you will find quality products and a more personal service in your local independent shops.
“Not so long ago, Alnwick was voted the best local high street in an internet poll.
“Let’s celebrate the independent spirit of Northumberland and Keep it Local this Christmas.
“Everything was well organised for the Market, but days like last weekend demonstrate how much better it could have been for everyone if we had a cover over the Market Place to offer protection from the elements.”
There was plenty to keep little visitors amused, with alpacas from Barnacre and Santa from the North Pole in attendance. Photo opportunities with Elsa, Anna and Olaf from the Disney film, Frozen, were snapped up.
Upstairs in the Northumberland Hall, facepainters worked tirelessly and more fun was had around the craft tables.
“Our younger shoppers still wanted to join in the Christmas spirit,” said Mel Corn, marketing and promotions officer. “A big thank-you to Specsavers for supporting our family entertainment programme.”
There were several traders for whom this was their first experience of Alnwick.
Jewellery stall, Pasar, said: “Everyone was so friendly and helpful to us as newcomers – markets staff, others traders, and customers. We stayed overnight in Alnwick and ate out locally.
“It was a shame about the weather but the live music kept our spirits up – and we were delighted at our sales over the weekend.”
Fashion retailers Bou-chique and market regular Branch Design also both commented upon the warm atmosphere around the Market Place, leading to a brisk weekend’s trading, considering the weather.
Town councillor Bill Grisedale said: “As was recognised in the Neighbourhood Plan, the Market Place and the independent shops around the town centre are vital the health of Alnwick as a working and welcoming community.
“Talking to both shoppers and traders over the weekend it’s clear that they value what Alnwick can offer. At a time when high streets up and down the country are under threat, it’s essential that we invest with foresight to support the individuals and enterprises who bring prosperity to our town centre.”
An on-line Advent calendar supported by local businesses offers shoppers a different prize opportunity or seasonal offer to ‘Keep it Local’ – for more details go to www.alnwickmarkets.co.uk/advent