FESTIVE trade has been a mixed bag for stores in Malvern, traders have said.

While some shops say they have enjoyed a particularly strong performance over this crucial time of the year, one longstanding trader said the festive rush failed to materialise and feels times are “as tough as they have been” in his 45 years of business.

Adrian Ward, who owns Robson Ward in Belle Vue Terrace and is a member of Great Malvern Association of Traders, admitted: “The Christmas period has been slower than we anticipated.

“We had expected the Saturdays to be quite busy running up to Christmas but they really weren’t, which was a bit of a surprise and a disappointment.”

He said local traders are facing ever greater competition from online trading and out-of-town shopping centres.

He also felt the return of traffic wardens to Malvern’s streets in November could have had the short-term result of keeping people away.

“It is not all doom and gloom but it’s not as good as we have seen in the past,” he said.

However, longstanding independent store Brays in Worcester Road says festive sales look like being an improvement on last year while Fat Face clothes store in Church Street was “heaving”

with customers on Tuesday.

Brays managing director Stewart Stone is hoping the strong sales will continue when the store’s new year sale – normally its busiest trading period of the year – starts tomorrow (Saturday).

“It has been very solid for us so far,” he said. “December remained much the same as last year but Christmas trade actually started a little earlier this year and we had a very good November which was rather nice.

“Overall I think we should be slightly up for the Christmas period compared to last year.”

He believes the unique offerings of Brays and Malvern’s many other independent retailers are key to their ongoing success.

“Malvern has a unique offering and I think people are prepared to shop locally and support it,” he said. “But we also get a lot of people from elsewhere who are stopping in for weekend breaks.

“They say they don’t have t h i s s o r t o f s t o r e i n their towns anymore and that they