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Rain or shine, the show must go on

The determination of festival organisers puts Martin Jones in the mood to overcome the weather

August 4 saw the culmination of 18 months of planning, fundraising and hard work with the opening of Wales' annual cultural festival, the National Eisteddfod, held this year on farmland less than a mile from our store.

A huge, pink marquee with 1,000-plus seats was the focal point of this eight-day event, providing a stage for the multitude of choirs, musicians, folk dancers, authors, poets and recitation parties who competed for cash prizes and the honour of being recognised as the finest in their field in Wales.

The remainder of the site was made up of stalls where local and national traders set up shop, along with bars and food stalls, TV companies broadcasting the daily competitions and evening concerts, a young people's section, caravan and camping sites, and huge fields designated as car parks to accommodate the 160,000 visitors that attended.

When it was announced that the festival was to be held in Mold, the reaction was equal measures of apathy, vague interest and anticipation, with pessimistic stories circulating the business community about how it would decimate business in the town as everyone would be on the field. But as the date drew nearer, most businesses recognised the potential possibilities of having this army of people who would need places to stay, eat, drink and be entertained when they were not on the festival site.

So who were the winners and losers? Well, the number one slot goes to the town's pubs, closely followed by the hotels that were all booked up for the duration of the festival. Those independent retailers brave enough to have booked space on the field reported that they had covered their costs by the third day. Those that remained in their natural habitats generally reported a good week's trading.

My thoughts, however, reach beyond the effects on the business community over the festival's eight days of trading. For instance, I marvel at how the organisers covered every eventuality. Twelve days before opening, the area where the festival took place was a sea of mud following a particularly wet July, but more than 8,000 tons of stone were used to provide walkways. The lesson for retail is that the show must go on regardless of circumstances. Instead of bemoaning the fact that the weather is against us, which it always seems to be whatever the season, we must find ways of overcoming these difficulties and be more imaginative than simply pressing the Sale panic button.

For our part, we sold literally dozens of brightly-coloured women's wellies each week in June and July, along with wax and rainproof jackets for all the outdoor events of the season.

If we had relied on sales of short-sleeved shirts and cotton trousers, then meeting our targets would have been impossible. The increasing buying budgets that are being held back for in-season spending can be used to overcome the extremes of our current climate.

Surely, it does not matter what we sell and when we sell it when it comes to summer merchandise. The important thing is that we are selling, that the wheels are turning smoothly, the staff are occupied and the tills are ringing.

- Martin Jones is the manager of menswear store Vaughan-Davies in Mold, north Wales.

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