WILTSHIRE: Buoyant times in Devizes

 

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By Tim Saunders

Attractive prices are the key to success following Brexit.

That is the finding in Devizes, Wiltshire, whose traders are reporting healthy sales against a backdrop of tough trading conditions nationally.

“We have already beaten last year’s bookings and we’re not even half way through the year,” reveals Michael Messam, volunteer at Kennet & Avon Canal Trust. “I think we’re successful because of our keen prices (£16 for a family ticket) which appeal to people with their limited budgets. More and more of us are holidaying at home rather than going abroad and we’re benefiting.”

Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, which has just received the Queen’s Voluntary Award, operates four canal boats and is run by an army of 450 volunteers.

In nearby Etchilhampton Jon and Judy Nash run Tichborne’s Farm Cottages. They have lived there since the 1970s. Eleven years ago they converted their barns into three luxury self-catering holiday cottages, recently adding a three bed house for larger families.

“We have held our prices for the last two years so that we remain competitive and this has helped maintain steady numbers of tourists from as far away as Australia,” says Jon. “We are booked well into next year.”

While Devizes is home to Wadworth brewery, which operates 250 pubs in Wiltshire, JD Wetherspoon has proved that there is still room for another pub in the town. It operates The Silk Mercer in St John Street and it is busy with numerous families eating there. Spokesman Eddie Gershon explains the appeal: “Families are looking for value for money and we offer this in spades. All our pubs have a welcoming friendly environment where children can feel at home.”

Another business enjoying brisk trade is Jimmy Deane’s Fruit, Veg & Salad shop at 19 The Brittox. Established in 1970 it has its own market stall directly outside the shop. At the end of a day staff sell produce by shouting: “Get your cherry punnets – 99p a punnet.”

Simon Fisher, Deputy Town Clerk at Devizes Town Councils concludes: “Devizes is fairly fortunate. It’s a small market town with a good selection of independent traders which, touch wood, have done better than the national chains during recession. Devizes Town Council has a portfolio of properties that it lets out to businesses. We have had high occupancy levels throughout the downturn. It’s been tough though. However, people have continued to shop locally. People from other surrounding towns come to shop here, too.”

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