Three late shop nights planned
Christmas shoppers can make the most of three nights of late shopping and free parking in central Blenheim in the buildup to the festive season.
However, not all Blenheim businesses will be opening for all the late nights, with some saying experience has shown them it is not worthwhile.
The late nights are on the three Thursdays before Christmas - December 6, 13 and 20.
Marlborough District Council has agreed to support the plan by allowing free parking from 4pm on all kerbside and off-street car parks in the town centre, except the Alfred St parking building.
Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said they wanted to support people shopping in the town centre rather than online so Blenheim would continue to thrive.
"Retailers are suffering from the trend towards online shopping," he said.
"We want to support our retailers and make the town centre a destination and an enjoyable experience for shoppers."
Marlborough Chamber of Commerce executive assistant Debbie Carter said stores including Blenheim Bookworld, Cherubs Childrenswear, Farmers, Whitcoulls, Stevens and Pascoes Jewellers would be open on all three nights.
Blenheim Bookworld co-owner Charlene Scott said they had stayed open late last year and their customers had appreciated having the chance to shop in a stress-free environment.
The council's support in supplying free parking was "a step in the right direction", she said.
"It would be nice if everyone agreed to open but at the end of the day, everyone makes the decisions on what's right for their own business."
They would stay open as long as people were shopping, she said.
Thomas's co-owner Hamish Thomas said they would be open for extended hours on December 13 and 20 because experience had shown most people left Christmas shopping until the last moment.
"We've looked back through our records and the last time Christmas fell on a Tuesday, the Saturday, Sunday and Monday were huge."
Blenheim music store owner Ken Ham, who has been in the business for 29 years, said late nights had not been very successful for him and he would probably stay open late on the two Thursdays before Christmas.
He did not think free parking would entice people into town.
The late-nights decision followed a Chamber of Commerce survey of 23 retailers that showed 10 were keen to be open for three late nights.
Seven retailers said they would stay open late on the two Thursdays before Christmas, and five opted for only one late night.
Sixteen business owners believed Thursday was the best late night, and 18 thought their business would benefit from extra hours leading up to Christmas.
Fifteen businesses indicated they would open for the combined Christmas Cracker Festival and Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 8.
The Marlborough Express