Wales’ massive Christmas shop that attracts thousands from around the UK has reopened this weekend.
It’s obviously going to be a different kind of festive season for the Powell family who run Seasons Garden Outlet in Bridgend. The store on the Brynmenyn Industrial Estate in Bridgend started life selling mostly garden and household furniture. But since it launched the festive side of the business 20 years ago, it’s become a huge part of the shop’s brand.
Justin Powell, who co-runs the business with brother Mark and his Seasons team have been working non-stop all week to get the Christmas shop ready — but sadly this year there’ll be no Santa’s Grotto.
But despite a local lockdown, social distancing measures, signage, sanitisers and staff in masks, Justin is hoping that a bit of Christmas spirit will lift customers’ spirits.
He said: “My gut feeling is that with a second lockdown people are going to be going out of their way to decorate indoors. We’ve got lots of baubles, garlands, plenty of choice to make that possible.
“People are going to think ‘Right, we’ll have a good bloody Christmas, we haven’t been able to go on holidays, it’s been a bad year’. Christmas at home will be their one joy of the year.
“Whether you decorate like mad usually or not, people will be looking forward to Christmas. Even on a personal level we have to have something to cheer us up.”
Justin acknowledged that it’s been a difficult year and cancelling the Santa’s Grotto was tough, but they put safety first. But he added they were working hard to put together a replacement experience for the kids.
“We’ve had to take the sad decision of cancelling the grotto,” he said.
“We are working on something so that children can have that Santa experience. With modern technology, a personal grotto experience, we’re working on that behind the scenes and might be a possibility from November onwards.”
A big fan of Christmas himself, Justin said that there will be lots of new items to check out in store, but for customers not ready to come to the shop – or who are outside the lockdown area of Bridgend – there’s a click and collect service and most of their festive stock is on their online shop.
Justin said that on his last check the store had 17,800 pallets – and that’s without counting the the individual items stored in them.
“There are lots of new items, we bring in new every year. We like to bring new stuff in, it’s exciting for customers. New lighting, outdoor decorations. Demand for our indoor stock has also gone up too.
“I’m a big fan of Christmas I think it’s a fantastic time of year and it’s something to look forward to. I love being around the family. It’s a family business and it’s really important to share and enjoy it with them. All our family members work here.”
In previous years the legend of Seasons has brought customers from far and wide, though this year they may have to settle for the website!
“They come from all over, it’s mad. We have loads of people coming from London,” added Justin.
“I had this one woman who saw us online, came down on the train and ordered half the warehouse and we got it shipped to her. A designer for a restaurateur in London came and filled the car and the roof rack. We get people from Bristol and Midlands. In Wales we get people from west Wales, they’ve been calling to check when we are open.
“Even with a local lockdown we’ll have a good turnout [locally]. Come to the Christmas store and get a lift – I think people need that for the moment.”