'Happy and hopeful': Hampstead shops ready for Christmas

Sayeh Rafiei of Sayeh & Galton Flowers in Flask Walk

Sayeh Rafiei of Sayeh & Galton Flowers in Flask Walk - Credit: Polly Hancock

Turkeys, gifts and decorations should be in strong supply this Christmas, as local businesses have prepared for months for the festive season.

The Ham&High visited Hampstead’s independent and most popular stores to find out how owners have coped with delivery and stock issues for Christmas.

Due to the shortage of HGV delivery drivers across Europe, as well as drained power supplies in China, the UK is reported to be facing a shortage of toys and traditional festive foods such as turkey and pigs in blankets.

The Hampstead Butcher and Providore, however, told the Ham&High that it has plenty of stock for the winter months, and expects to still be able to take orders as late as Christmas Eve.

Owner Phillip Matthews, who also has a store in Muswell Hill, believes the extent of food shortages has been exaggerated. He said his business has maintained good arrangements with its independent suppliers throughout the pandemic. 

The butcher sources its free-range beef and turkey from the east and middle of England and have been receiving orders for Christmas dinner since late summer. 

The business has also managed to sell more large birds this winter, as last year when gatherings were restricted to small bubbles, customers were only able to buy smaller turkeys.

Philip Matthews at Hampstead Butchers and Providore

Philip Matthews of Hampstead Butcher and Providore - Credit: Polly Hancock

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In 2020, Phillip even found himself having to cut his largest birds, which can feed up to 18 people, in half so that families could freeze them for later use. 

“I haven’t seen many people panic buying,” the owner said. “I think they have learnt to drown out the fearmongering. 

“The food industry has been fortunate as an essential service to remain in business during Covid, and I’m confident and hopeful that we can continue to give customers a good experience.”

Rebecca Hughes book seller at Daunt Books South End Green NW3 with some of this year's big sellers

Rebecca Hughes of Daunt Books in South End Green - Credit: Polly Hancock

Not all stores count themselves to be as fortunate. At Sayeh and Galton Flowers in Flask Walk, deliveries that once took five days to arrive are now expected after about four weeks. 

The delivery driver shortage has meant that florist Sayeh Rafiei, who orders all her hand-cut flowers from Holland, has had to plan far in advance to be able to put together her Christmas display. 

Sayeh said deliveries now require more paperwork, and she has had to pay 20-30% more to get flowers into her store. As a result, she has been forced to raise her prices by about 10-12% to make up for losses. 

The florist said: “Remembering the enjoyment people get from being able to buy a bunch of flowers means I wouldn’t want to overcharge them. 

“I want to thank all my loyal customers for keeping us going. All the messages and comments make us so happy.” 

Since mid-November, Sayeh and Galton has been preparing handmade Christmas trees from blue pine, which it has been selling for 25 years.  

The flowers and branches are arranged in sponge so they have plenty of moisture and last through the festive season. 

Scandinavian Christmas Decorations in Sayeh & Galton Flowers

Scandinavian Christmas Decorations in Sayeh & Galton Flowers - Credit: Polly Hancock

Many Hampstead businesses have long been able to rely on a boom in sales over the Christmas period including Daunt Books, which is known for its selection of holiday cards. 

Fears of gift shortages remain, and while shelves at Happy Returns toy store in Rosslyn Hill are now full, shopkeepers told the Ham&High they have struggled to ship goods in from overseas.  

Daunt Books seller Rebecca Hughes, however, said that supply methods for the store’s books have remained largely unaffected. 

The shop is expecting to sell plenty of children’s books this winter, with David Walliams and JK Rowling being particular favourites year on year. 

Rebecca said: “We have a really nice, loyal customer base, and we are on first name terms with a lot of people who come here. 

“As long as we maintain that loyalty, we aren’t worried about any Christmas shortages.” 

With the big day now less than a month away, Hampstead businesses have prepared well to try and avoid shortages seen at other retailers across the country.