Highgate businesses prepared to 'keep going' as Christmas approaches
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Highgate businesses are determined to have a Merry Christmas, come rain or come lockdown.
Local gift shop owners, butchers and dog treat suppliers on Highgate High Street have said they are prepared to help customers get everything they need this Christmas, even with possibilities of a December lockdown and supply chain issues.
Over the course of the pandemic, shops started click-and-collect systems that they are willing to return to should restrictions come back into force, and many businesses have sold much of their Christmas stock already.
Fears of a potential December lockdown have sprung up over the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant, which has been named Omicron.
It became mandatory to wear face masks in shops and on public transport again on November 30.
At Map Gift Shop’s pop-up store, newly opened in October, co-owner Kathryn Phalp said she is hoping to stay open for Christmas.
Many of her gift items have sold well, with the joke game Poo Bingo being a particular favourite.
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This year, Map also had 60 hand-painted "Highgate baubles” specially made, which showcase scenes from the local area which are now almost sold out.
Kathryn said: “I hadn’t really thought about the possibility of not being able to open until last week. I really doubt we’ll have to lock down but I’m prepared to keep doing click-and-collect and trade from the shop door if I have to.”
Last December, many Highgate businesses had to operate strictly from a click-and-collect system. At WCD Interiors, owners Avril and Walter Castellazzo were passing items to customers through the front door.
Though it has been reported that the ongoing HGV delivery driver shortage could create stock issues with gifts and decorations, the boutique interior decor store uses small suppliers, and have filled shelves even though they only started preparing their Christmas display in October.
A WCD store worker told the Ham&High: “Being a small business has given us more flexibility. When something isn’t available, we can order it from elsewhere. Avril and Walter usually order a small number of each thing, so it’s not been too difficult to get stock. It’s all hand picked for a personal touch.”
As well as gift shortage reports, there have been concerns about alcohol delivery issues for wine and spirits companies.
Sacred Distillery, however, is completely unaffected by HGV concerns, as it makes its own gin and liqueurs in its micro-distillery.
Shop employee Ana Piferrer said: “As producers of gin, we are lucky to be well-stocked this Christmas. When it comes to wine, our founder has an extensive personal collection and we’re slowly bringing them out to make sure we don’t run out.”
The store began producing its Christmas items in January.
This year, products include a Christmas pudding flavoured London dry gin, as well as Christmas puddings soaked in brandy and whisky.
It also sells Negroni-shaped Christmas baubles and novelty socks with cocktails on them.
The High Street is well-stocked with special Christmas gifts for pets too. Hair of the Dog London is this year selling advent calendars, as well as festive biscuits and Christmas jumpers, just for dogs.
It is offering Christmas dog grooming up until December 23.
Hair of the Dog’s Suzi Kalms said: “Loads of people got dogs in lockdown, and it’s been hectic in here ever since. We’ve been very, very busy this winter.”
Christmas is a busy time for most Highgate businesses, but certain shops have been told to manage with limited supplies.
Highgate Butchers has not been able to source any geese or capons this year and has been supplied fewer turkeys than usual.
Owner Phyllis Harper said this is because there are fewer European workers in Britain to pluck the birds after Brexit.
She added: “Usually we tell our suppliers how many turkeys we want. This year they have told us how many we can have. So, they’ve allocated us 100 this year, and we’ve already sold so many of them. Business has been very good.”
Even facing supply issues, Highgate Butchers will be taking Christmas orders until December 15.