Don’t miss out on special personal service in Lowestoft

IT'S the big dilemma for millions of Christmas shoppers – head for the High Street or buy online.

A host of surveys suggest that many people are opting for the latter this year and making their purchases via their home computer.

But retail leaders in Lowestoft say that customers who resort to websites to buy their festive gifts are missing out on the special personal service provided by local businesses and on the special seasonal atmosphere in the town centre.

Add to this the potential nightmare of trying to return or swap an item purchased online and the fact that shopping in Lowestoft is now made easier and cheaper by free parking in the run-up to Christmas and they say the choice should be simple!

Last week, a festive parking boost was announced by Waveney District Council as plans to waive car parking fees throughout Lowestoft from 10am on the two Saturday's before Christmas Day starting tomorrow and on bank holiday Monday, December 27, were approved.

At a formal delegated meeting of the council last Thursday, it agreed to boost local businesses and encourage shoppers to 'shop local' for Christmas by suspending some parking charges in December.

In waiving these car parking fees, the local authority hopes shoppers will be encouraged to buy their Christmas presents from locally-run shops and, in the case of the bank holiday, choose to shop locally in the post-Christmas sales.

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Free parking at all council-run car parks was previously confirmed for every night in December from 6pm in a move the local authority made to encourage traders to keep shops open for an extra hour each night instead of just for Thursday's late night shopping evenings. The aim is to give Waveney residents and visitors as many possible opportunities and incentives to buy their Christmas presents from locally-run shops.

The recommendations up for discussion last week were suggested by councillors who recognise that the run-up to Christmas is a crucial time for traders and shopping locally helps improve the local economy. This is in keeping with The Journal's Shop Local for Christmas campaign, which urges shoppers to think of Waveney's local shops when looking for presents in the coming weeks.

Councillor Stephen Ardley, portfolio holder for healthy communities, said: 'This is the right decision at the right time and having listened to traders and to the people of Waveney, we hope that this boost in difficult times will encourage more people to 'buy local' this Christmas.'

Also backing these plans this week was Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who was delighted to hear that after approaching the council with free parking options for the north Lowestoft area, the moves had been rubber-stamped.

Mr Aldous recently met with the north Lowestoft traders, who identified car parking in December as a key issue to increase trade in the run-up to Christmas. Aldous raised the matter with local councillors - prompting this decision.

'I am pleased that Waveney District Council have responded to the concerns of the traders,' Mr Aldous said. 'These are tough financial times and it is crucial that these hard working people are able to attract trade to the area in the run-up to Christmas. I will continue to have regular meetings with the traders to ensure their concerns are heard and do what I can to help.'

In addition to late night shopping, which now runs on Thursday evenings in the town, a special Christmas family fun day is planned for next Saturday, December 18.

Festive fun for all the family is on the agenda, starting at 11am, as the Town Centre Management Partnership - which organised this event - sends out a rallying cry to townsfolk to support local shops.

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