The mercury may be rising and summer must surely be around the corner, but the thoughts of Swanage Chamber of Trade have already turned to Christmas.
As part of an ongoing campaign to boost the town’s reputation as an all year round destination, the Chamber would like to extend the area lit up for the festive period.
Chamber of Trade spokesperson Anne Rothery is hoping for a festive benefactor
Generous benefactor wanted for the town
The annual Christmas window display competition is already showing signs that it pulls in shoppers specifically to browse through town streets in December, while the quality of Swanage’s independent shops is the answer to many tricky gift dilemmas.
But the cost of increasing the light display is too much for the non-profit Chamber alone, which is now hoping that a generous benefactor may be able to bring joy to more of the town.
Swanage Town Council took over responsibility for the annual display from Switch On Swanage a few years ago and has since tendered for a company to provide, install and maintain the lights.
Despite making a significant payment towards the display, it seems that the only feasible way to extend them is to appeal for financial help from a generous business or individual.
The Swanage Rotary Christmas market is already looking to expand for 2023
Keen to make Swanage a year round destination
Anne Rothery, spokesperson for the Chamber of Trade, said:
“It might seem early to be asking about a Christmas sponsor, but I’ve been trying to persuade the Chamber to prepare for Christmas since January – you really do need to project plan for it.
“We are all very keen on making Swanage far more of a year-round destination, and having good Christmas lights and interesting events at Christmas is an important part of that.
“It helps bring people into Swanage and the higher the footfall is in town, the more chance there is of businesses making more sales, so we are very keen to extend the lights down the high street as far as we can get them.
“For the last few years we have raised some money for an extra string, but that doesn’t go far and now we are looking for any businesses or individuals who would like to sponsor Christmas lights with a view to improving the look of the town in the festive season to attract more custom.
“In the last few years we have organised and run the festive windows display, which was good to start with and has improved year on year – we know that people enjoy them and specifically come to Swanage to wander round the town and look at them.
“We would like to see the display extended down High Street to Lower High Street, ideally up as far as the town hall, though that may be a pipe dream, but we have to ask now to know by the end of August whether we are able to arrange for more lights.”
A Christmas shop window display competition is proving a popular draw
Firms may miss out on iconic visitors’ map
Some businesses reported takings down by as much as 40 percent for Christmas 2022 thanks to the chain ferry link to Poole and Bournemouth being out of action for three months.
That, and the after effects of Covid, have led to a second problem for the Chamber of Trade – a number of businesses have let their subscriptions slide, and as a result may miss out on inclusion on the annual visitors’ map.
The Chamber of Trade prints and distributes thousands of the maps which are handed out over summer to tourists who arrive at Swanage Railway station or on the Waverley paddle steamer at the town’s pier.
The street maps, showing major tourist attractions, are also available for free at Swanage Information Centre, in hotels and B&Bs, and include the locations of all town businesses which are active paid-up members of the Chamber of Trade.
The iconic Swanage visitors’ map is being redrawn for summer 2023
Inexpensive way to advertise a business
Anne Rothery said:
“The iconic maps are very popular and people actually keep and save them, but they are being redrawn for summer 2023 and we are now very close to the printing deadline.
“You need to be in the Chamber to have your business icon put on the map, so we need people to either join up or rejoin by the end of May 2023 if they want the publicity that comes with the map.
“People really appreciate the maps and if you are on it, you have a much greater chance of tourists coming to see you over summer, especially if you are not on the main streets.
“We only charge £36 membership for the entire year, which is a very inexpensive way to advertise your business apart from any other benefits of networking with the Chamber.”
Thousands of visitor maps are handed out free to tourists every summer
Time to decide who is included on the map
“During Covid, businesses tried to shave their outgoings by every single penny they could. Many people lapsed their membership of the Chamber and it may not have crossed their mind to reinstate the payment.
“We haven’t pushed people for subs because we know that with the ferry being off it was a difficult time for businesses and we didn’t want to add to the pressures on them.
“But now we have got to the point where it is time to make a decision on who is included on the map – we usually have around 30 or 40, but we have room on the map for as many as would like to join us.
“And if your business doesn’t have physical premises, we are exploring a way of doing a link to your business through a QR code.”
Any potential sponsors for Christmas lights should contact either Anne Rothery or Sylvia Libicka, while those who need to join or rejoin the Chamber should contact either Sylvia Libicka or Caroline Finch.