TORQUAY'S first late-night shopping event of the festive season was a muted affair as many shoppers failed to take advantage of the extended opening hours or Torbay Council's free parking scheme.
Bare car parks, empty streets and unopened shops led to some traders closing early on Thursday, but most proprietors did comment they had expected the first date to be quiet - with plenty of shopping days left until Christmas. One jolly bearded gentleman in a red suit was even upbeat about the subdued start to late night shopping in Torquay:
"It has been relatively quiet compared to previous years, particularly tonight," said past President of Babbacombe and St Marychurch Rotary Club Charles Blake, who has a 'starring role' in the rotary-run Santa's Grotto on Fleet Walk, "But it is early yet and I am confident it will get better, particularly with the festive entertainment scheduled in the coming weeks."
Speaking of the forthcoming entertainment for shoppers, Rachel Weaver, Torbay town centre manager, said:
"We have made sure it will be full of some fantastic entertainers bringing plenty of sparkle to Torquay. There will be a harbourside main stage with some great live music and comedy performers. Towards the top of town will be a circus tent for children to learn some impressive circus skills and also a harmony folk duo called Laura and Pixi. Torquay town centre is unique in its picturesque setting, with many cafes and eateries, late night shopping is a more relaxed affair and the perfect place to bring your family to enjoy free entertainment without shopping stress."
Charles Blake was also keen to promise some festive cheer for the predicted influx of Christmas shoppers:
"I happen to know that Father Christmas himself is very much looking forward to seeing everyone come and visit him in the town centre so he can spread some festive cheer," he added, "he is sure that the town centre will get busier as Christmas approaches and hopes that everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."
Santa's Christmas Grotto is at Fleetwalk Shopping Centre Thursday to Sunday from 10am – 5pm, right up until Christmas Eve, and is open until 8pm for Thursday's late night shopping events. Parking on both those remaining Thursday nights after 5pm is free in council car parks in the run-up to Christmas.