Cheltenham Festival: Shoppers take advantage of the quiet town centre
TRADERS are reminding shoppers in Cheltenham they are still open for business as the town gets ready for the start of race week today.
Retailers in the heart of the town said they often see fewer customers as many residents avoid the area.
But town centre manager Martin Quantock insisted that, while the horses were running at Prestbury Park, the High Street is quiet enough for non-racing fans to enjoy.
He added: "There is still the perception that the town is a no-go area during race week because it becomes gridlocked. It does get busy prior to the races and afterwards.
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"But while 60,000 people are watching the horses, between around 1pm and 5.30pm, the town becomes absolutely deserted.
"If people want to do their shopping in peace, it is a great time.
"You will find the car parks are two-thirds empty, the sales assistants are queuing up to serve you and they would feel absolutely welcomed."
Despite the drop in footfall, Mr Quantock said the shops did not suffer as Cheltenham residents tended to pop into get their shopping before or after race week.
He added: "The amount coming into the system is absolutely the same throughout the month.
"It just dips when the races are on and peaks either side of it.
"All the business totally support race week and it has a good long-term impact for the shops.
"The racecourse takes in around 3,000 to 4,000 people and most are youngsters who come and spend their earnings afterwards.
"It also brings in so many visitors, which is great for the hospitality industry in Cheltenham.
"Some of the nightclubs say it is like having four New Year's Eves in a week for them."
The Fiery Angel, in Hewlett Road, had already been picking up trade yesterday before racing starts today.
Barmaid and chef Julie Champion said the four days of race week were busier than Christmas and New Year.
She said: "We are really looking forward to and it can be a great time of year for us.
"We tend to get some of the same people come year after year and so it is good to be seeing old friends.
"It is a great boost and tends to help us through the next few months."