Christmas well and truly arrives in Morpeth this weekend, and the festivities couldn’t be getting off to a better start.
First, the magical Coca Cola Christmas spectacular will have rolled into town today (Thursday) with the arrival of the big red truck.
The vehicle, which has been the star of the company’s television adverts, will be parked in the centre of town for two days, bringing all the razzmatazz.
Coca Cola has its bottled water operation in Coopies Lane, Morpeth, in which it has invested heavily, both in terms of new equipment and staff development, and the town is the only Northumberland stop on the truck’s 2017 UK tour.
On Saturday, Sanderson Arcade will be switching on its Christmas lights with an afternoon programme of fun, followed a week later by Morpeth Town Council lighting up its Christmas display.
And not forgetting that Rutherfords’ store has just unveiled its festive window display.
Why should all this be so important? Well, Christmas should be the busiest trading period of the year for Morpeth’s shops and businesses. Most of them, I suspect, would say that 2017 hasn’t been the easiest year so they will be looking forward to a strong Christmas trading period.
Recently there seems to have been surge of new businesses setting up, expanding or consolidating in the town, which is absolutely terrific. All too often we read about towns losing businesses and complaining that because they have an abundance of empty shops people are deterred from shopping there.
Morpeth seems to be bucking that trend. There have been premises vacated in the town centre, but happily others have taken them over or are in the process of doing so. They have been prepared to invest their hard-earned cash to back their ideas for making a living in Morpeth and I sincerely hope they succeed.
Their faith is also good news for existing businesses because a lack of empty shops helps spread the word that Morpeth really is ‘open for business’.
Now what all businesses need is for local people to repay their investment by shopping locally — and what better time than at Christmas?
It’s easy to go online and spend in the run-up to Christmas, or to visit out-of-town retail parks, but every pound spent in Morpeth is a boost to the town and its traders, not just at this time of year, but from January to December.
Morpeth can be proud of its claim to be the premier market town of Northumberland because of its attractiveness, heritage and history, but also as a result of the quality and diversity of its retail offer.
‘Big names’ have been encouraged to trade in Morpeth through developments such as Sanderson Arcade, but alongside them are many independent, niche businesses that give the town its unique character.
They add to the relaxing, welcoming atmosphere, which contrasts with the hurly-burly of huge out-of-town complexes, making Morpeth an attractive place to shop, as well as enjoy a meal or a drink.
The Heart of Morpeth business awards demonstrated why the town can justify its claim to be one of the best places to shop and visit in the North East. The winners are doing such a good job.
I would ask readers to remember that visitors are important to the local economy, but no more so than the people who live and work in Morpeth.
My message is enjoy the start of the festive season in Morpeth, and please consider spending more of your Christmas money in the town.