Winter weather is ‘snow’ joke for businesses

BUSINESSES suffered significant losses as the heaviest snow for five decades settled across the town.

Nearly a foot of snow fell in Eastbourne last week, bringing schools, trains, buses and even some businesses to a standstill. Christmas shoppers avoided the treacherous conditions which was bad news for many of the town’s businesses.

Family-run Rainbow Toys, which has been in Terminus Road for around five years, is usually very busy in December but business owner Jayne Piper told the Gazette takings were down by around 80 per cent during the snow.

She said, “We saw a considerable drop in sales at a time when we expect to be very busy. The pavements were so bad and icy. There were no trains or buses and people couldn’t get out of the side roads in their cars.

“No-one was going to come out in that. It was a waste of time being open, but it is just one of those things and you have to muddle through it. We are lucky that we don’t get that much snow. I am now hoping there is no more of the white stuff before Christmas.”

Jayne, who lives in Crowborough and had to stay with family locally in order to open her toy shop, said trade picked up on Saturday but explained she would not be able to make up the loss in takings.

Chris Appleby, manager at Bon Marche in the Arndale centre, had to close four hours early at 4pm on Thursday because the Arndale shut due to the snow.

She is also hoping the heavy snow does not return before Christmas because takings on Thursday were 85 per cent down on the previous year.

Chris said, “We had a rush on hats, gloves, coats and knitwear but then things went very quiet.

“We have been 14 per cent up this year to date, so to have a major downturn like this hits you hard.

“We are 40 per cent down on the week and that is down to the weather without a doubt.”

Supermarkets around the town also noticed a change in trade as people started to panic buy.

On Thursday night and Friday shoppers were struggling to find bread. The Gazette understand the bread shortage was down to panic buying and because the depots were unable to get flour to the factories in the adverse weather.

Matt Wheeler, duty manager at Sainsbury’s in Cross Levels Way, Hampden Park, said, “We noticed there was some panic buying and then things went very quiet for us. However, Saturday and Sunday were very, very busy - it was manic here over the weekend.”

Mr Wheeler explained the Arndale Centre store had been less affected because people found it easier to walk to that shop.

The town centre event in aid of St Wilfrid’s Hospice, due to take place on December 4 and 5, was postponed due to the adverse weather. Organisers said many stall holders, entertainers and visitors would struggle to access the town centre safely.

Bill Plumridge, Eastbourne Arndale Centre manager and chairman of the Christmas Magic Partnership said, “It’s very disappointing, after all the planning and preparation that has taken place but I am sure that people understand that the weather conditions mean it would be irresponsible to run the even this weekend. We hope to reschedule an event for the New Year.”

“The Little Christmas in Little Chelsea event has also had to be postponed and, subject to confirmation it is hoped to re-run this event on December 17.”