Celebrate Norfolk business this Christmas with Shop Local
- Credit: Gareth Gabriel
After a difficult year, the community is showing its support for Norfolk’s independent retailers by spending locally this Christmas.
As national lockdown restrictions are lifted and Norfolk enters Tier 2, Norfolk’s town councils are encouraging people to support their independents by shopping locally this Christmas. And with a variety of alternative events, reimagined to ensure Covid safety, residents will be treated to some old-fashioned Christmas cheer as they hunt for presents – coronavirus or no coronavirus.
Aylsham’s picturesque market place, owned by the National Trust, is central to the town’s history, along with a number of independent local businesses which give the town its distinct personality. Whether it is the ladies’ boutique Amika or Carousel Chocolates on Red Lion Street, Aylsham has plenty of popular spots to pick up the perfect Christmas gift – all of which offer that familiar and personal service you can only find at Norfolk independents.
“Small businesses are vital to market towns – especially now,” says Sue Lake, town clerk at Aylsham Town Council. “The larger multi-nationals are pulling out of smaller towns and concentrating where they can get greater footfall. Small businesses have the time to offer service on a one-to-one level which can be very important.”
Aylsham has a number of socially distanced festive events planned, including the 12 Days of Christmas Trail. Commencing December 4, customers are invited to visit shops and businesses displaying the 12 Days of Christmas Trail poster to find their unique symbols and complete an entry form for your chance to win a Christmas hamper. The town council also invites residents to participate in Window Wanderland – a trail of decorated windows that are back lit to create an artistic or festive scene for passers-by to enjoy.
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Cromer is the ideal place to find show-stopping stocking fillers, like the retro candies available from Amy’s Sweet Shop on West Street and the special Christmas chocolate boxes available at Harald’s Fine Chocolates on Garden Street. The seaside town is also perfectly placed to provide fresh ingredients for a unique Christmas dinner thanks to its selection of independent fishmongers, including Davies Fish Shop and Jonas Seafoods – how about a seasonal Cromer crab starter on Christmas Day?
Tragically, Holt’s only supermarket – the Budgens store that had serviced the community for 35 years – was destroyed by a fire on 20 June, compounding the difficulties already being experienced by the town’s populace during lockdown. The good news is that a temporary store to the north of Kerridge Way is now in operation in time for Christmas, along with Holt’s unique collection of independents like Holt Vinyl Vault and The Holt Bookshop.
“Budgens has reopened in a beautiful temporary store and is full of festive goodies,” says Love Holt’s Nigel Hadlow. “All our independent shops and eating places are pulling out the stops to create a safe and festive environment for everyone.
“Shopping locally helps build the local economy,” Nigel adds. “Around two thirds of the money spent at our independent retailers stays in the community. And local businesses care about the community – they are our neighbours!”
Nigel points out that local businesses that offer an online click-and-collect service have prospered with local residents. “It is also good for the environment, with a smaller carbon footprint,” he says.
North Walsham has been gearing up for Christmas and every shop in town is ready to meet shoppers’ Christmas needs – from gifts for pets and people, to clothes, furnishings and bikes to cars and everything in between. And while government restrictions have meant that the town could not host its annual Christmas lights switch-on as usual, North Walsham is still looking very festive indeed, with lights and decorated windows around the town centre and two illuminated Christmas trees.
“We are proud of our town’s shops and traders, most of which are independently owned,” says North Walsham mayor Garry Bull. “It has been a challenging year for them – with coronavirus added to the fact that Market Place was closed for months due to gas mains renewal works. It is really important for everyone to shop local to experience a personalised service, enjoy their excellent products and to help end 2020 on a positive note for our shops and traders.
“Our town has a strong community spirit and many groups help people in need,” Garry adds. “North Walsham can be very proud of its response during this awful year. We are confident that this support will continue beyond Covid-19 into the new normal.”
The charming seaside town of Sheringham is home to a choice selection of independent stores. Shoppers can explore The Courtyard on Station Road, a Victorian shopping arcade brimming with fabulous gift ideas.
“We want to keep our town vibrant with our range of small shops,” explains Madeleine Ashcroft, mayor of Sheringham and chair of Sheringham Town Council. “Many of our local shops are open and happy to serve socially-distanced customers, but it has also been great that so many have found ways to help the community to shop local through their delivery services. Some of the shops are very busy with deliveries, including the Mr 50 Discount Store. We have been able to have deliveries of fish, vegetables and meat as well as items from the specialist stores, such as Blyth & Wright.”
Sheringham’s Carnival Committee organised a virtual lights switch-on which took place on 29 November, and four-year-old James Grint flipped the switch with the help of Madeleine. Local photographer Gareth Gabriel captured the event for a video entitled Sheringham Virtual Christmas Lights 2020, which is available to view on YouTube.
With distinctive independents such as Riverside Art and Glass, Kisi Canine Accessories and The Florist Shop, Wroxham is another quaint Norfolk village that can cater to different tastes when searching for the right present. And the council has organised some special decorations that shoppers can enjoy while hopping around the stores.
Wroxham Parish Council vice chairman Malcolm Allsop says: “Wroxham Parish Council is expanding its usual offering of a village Christmas tree by setting up six trees in the heart of the village at the junction of the main A1151 and The Avenue.”
A community initiative entitled Light Up Wroxham also encourages people to place their Christmas tree by the window where it can be seen from the road, spreading Christmas cheer throughout the village.