Businesses in Highgate have said a heartfelt thanks to loyal customers who have kept them going through difficult times.

As Christmas approaches things are looking up for traders, but the season is fleeting and the cost of living will bite harder for many next year.

Highgate Butchers is taking orders for Turkey, which are pre-booked from a farm in Kent.

The butcher, run by mum and son team Phyllis and Lee Harper, has been a staple on the High Street for nearly 50 years.

"We're definitely down on last year," said manager Lee. "The cost of living seems to be the key word. People are redistributing their money to other things.

"We can't put the prices up to what they should be as it would be too much, too expensive"

Lamb, beef and chicken has increased in price.

"Grains from Ukraine and bird flu have affected supply," said Lee.

"It's gone up 25% but we haven't put up our prices that much. We have very loyal customers so it's not a complete disaster."

With business rates, council tax, the hike in energy prices they fortunately own the freehold "otherwise we'd be gone".

Ham & High: Phyllis Harper, owner of Highgate Butchers with manager son Lee. The war in Ukraine and bird flu has hit the business hardPhyllis Harper, owner of Highgate Butchers with manager son Lee. The war in Ukraine and bird flu has hit the business hard (Image: Nathalie Raffray)

Phyllis added: "It's terrible, it's a struggle. You can make money at Christmas but the rest of the year people forget about us.

"If it wasn't for our loyal customers we would be gone."

She added: "It's been a decline on the high street for the past few years. Two banks have gone so there's no cash, it's card only. Older residents who want to pay by cash can't get change.

"We've been here 47 years and we want to continue but it's up to customers to support us. Use us or lose us." 

Grazyna, who owns a womenswear shop of the same name has been impacted by Brexit.

"I love Christmas and winter but I've not had time to enjoy it," she said.

"I've managed to get some nice stock, I love nice textures, but post-Brexit has certainly been very challenging."

Following Brexit, businesses had to adapt to the new rules and regulations because the country was no longer part of the single trading area.

"I wish everything would work a little more smoothly with how everything is processed. It takes five seconds to make a mistake and hours to correct it.

"I love Christmas but I wish so much time wasn't taken up with bureaucracy and paperwork. We were not prepared and things were not put in place to make it easy. 

"I appreciate my customers coming in. People are fairly positive about things despite what's going on around them. Things could be much worse."

Ham & High: Suzi Kalms, manager of Hair of the Dog in HighgateSuzi Kalms, manager of Hair of the Dog in Highgate (Image: Nathalie Raffray)

Suzi Kalms manages the Hair of the Dog, which opened in 2009, with a grooming service at the back of the shop.

"Luckily things are normal for us. More and more people have dogs now since Covid and stuff," she said.

"We have lots of regulars and lots of customers who prefer to support their local shop.

"They like the personal experience if they want to buy a collar or a coat."

The shop is open seven days a week.

"We used to close on Mondays but we got too busy," said Suzi.

Another business weathering the season is the family-run Sacred Distillery, which opened during lockdown and where the gin is distilled and bottled on site.

Ham & High: Kiltie De Clyn and Siobhan Feeley say Christmas is always busy at Sacred DistilleryKiltie De Clyn and Siobhan Feeley say Christmas is always busy at Sacred Distillery (Image: Nathalie Raffray)

"Christmas is always going to be busy," said Siobhan Feeley, distillery manager.

"We've not been affected too much, things are picking up. Our busiest time starts this weekend then it's full on until the end of December then January it's all dead."

For gift-giving one new place to visit is Joya Design, House of Lebanon, a gift shop and emporium which opened in July.

It stocks fine Lebanese wines including a certified vegan Rose wine, meze food items, handmade jewellery, rugs, and ceramics. 

Jihane Yassine, founder, said: "It has been a tough two years for small businesses but we have to keep on going.

"I had the idea of selling Lebanese wine and food in my shop so when customers visit my store they going to have a full experience."