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Indies despair at ‘ghost towns’ following floods

Independent retailers in the northwest of England have been hard hit by Storm Desmond, as flooding made entire towns impassable over the weekend.

flooding in cumbria photo credit University of Salford

Flooding in Cumbria (Credit: University of Salford)

The Met Office issued red weather warnings on Saturday for several regions across the UK following heavy rainfall and high winds. The worst hit county, Cumbria, saw a new record for the amount of rain that fell in a 24-hour period, with Honister racking up 341.4mm (13.4in) of rain on Saturday December 5.

A number of Cumbrian retailers told Drapers they had escaped flood damage, but footfall had been “non-existent” as shoppers were unable to access town centres.

Terry Foster, owner of Casanova Menswear in Carlisle, said: “There are only two main roads into the town and both are closed because of the flooding. People are being told to stay in their homes. Sales were down £10,000 over the weekend and it will be very hard to make that up.”

Pete Mitchell, director of Edwards Menswear in Penrith, echoed this: “Footfall has been down as roads are closed and bridges nearby have been knocked down.” But he added: “Our online business has been busy.”

Pauline Brown, owner of Kiddiewinks in Keswick, said her shop escaped flooding as it is situated on a hill, but many businesses in the town had been hit: “Most shops are closed as their staff can’t travel into Keswick from surrounding towns. Roads have crumbled away, so it will take a while to get back to normal. For a Saturday in the run-up to Christmas, footfall was incredibly quiet; it was like a ghost town.”

Business was also very quiet for menswear shop Peter Charles in Lancaster over the weekend. Power was running on emergency generators and most of the other shops and banks in the town had closed due to flooding.

Tesco Express stores in Cumbria have been working with British Red Cross officials to hand out emergency aid and essentials. Stores have also been able to help local fire and police services with additional water supplies.

In Kendal, Tesco supplied trolleys of sandwiches, water, fruit, milk, bacon, bread, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other essentials to hundreds of people taking refuge in the town hall.

Retail charity Retail Trust has urged businesses to support fellow retailers who have been affected by the storm by donating through its JustGiving page. The charity is also urging retailers in the northwest to direct affected staff to the website or to call the free helpline on 0808 801 0808 for assistance.

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