TILLS were not ringing with their usual festive cheer as shops around South Lakeland experienced a mixed reaction to sales over Christmas and New Year.

Bargain hunters were few and far between in some stores, with one charity shop manager saying it was ‘the worst Christmas yet’.

Many businesses throughout the area put the lack of footfall down to the bad weather and the internet.

Andrew Atkinson, owner of Atkinsons Toy Shop on Lake Road, Windermere, was disappointed with this year’s sales.

He said: “The lead up to Christmas has been very poor.

“I think this year, more so than ever, people have been turning to the internet, especially to buy toys.

“It really is a struggle. The weather has not helped but I think South Lakeland District Council should be encouraging people to Windermere and Bowness over Christmas and offer free parking to attract more shoppers to the area.

“I think even the big retail stores in the area have suffered. Over Christmas and New Year it used to be a lot busier and if nothing is done it is only going to get worse.”

Mike Hustings, manager of Oxfam in Kendal, was equally despondent.

“This is probably been our worst Christmas yet, compared to last year we are 30 per cent down. It has not felt like Christmas at all,” he said.

“We peaked two weeks before and then it has been very quiet. Our shops in Preston and Lancaster have had a really busy time but the Oxfam shops in the Lake District have been very quiet with hardly anyone through the doors.

“We normally do very well with sales of our Christmas cards but again sales have been poor.

” It was not all doom and gloom on the High Street, with some shops seeing a steady flow of customers coming through the doors.

Denise Bell, manager of Greenwoods in Kendal, said: “It has been very up and down and quite slow to start off with.

“However Christmas Eve was quite busy with last minute shoppers and the weekend before Christmas was our busiest so far. “It is down a little from last year but hopefully will pick up in the next week or so.”

Independent shops in Ulverston experienced similar last minute panic buyers flocking to the area.

Lynn Rushforth, director of leather shop Rushforths on King Street, said: “It was very late starting but in the end we did okay, especially as we are constantly competing with the internet.

“Christmas Eve was quite busy with last minute shoppers and hopefully it will start to pick up again with the sales starting.”

The Westmorland Shopping Centre experienced a high volume of customers through the doors.

Sale figures are yet to be released but shoppers came in their thousands. Centre Director Alan Green said: “In the weeks before Christmas we were pushing 100,000 people through the doors and those numbers have continued throughout the period, probably equalling last year’s shoppers coming to the centre.”

Customers took comfort in local coffee shops over the festive period, with Farrer’s in Kendal experiencing a busier Christmas period than last year.

Manager Rebecca Grace said: “It has definitely felt busier this year. It’s literally been one in one out. Before Christmas it was people coming in to buy things and now it’s all about sitting down and grabbing a coffee.”

Consumers also flocked to K Village, taking advantage of the free parking after 4pm and on Sundays throughout December.

Manager Mandy Dixon said: “Footfall was slightly down in December by six per cent but because of the free car parking we have still attracted a lot of visitors, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom.

“The Works and Lakeland Limited both experienced an increase in sales from last year.

“I think shoppers have still been very conscious of the economic climate but we have survived and can only hope it will continue over the rest of the holidays and pick up again.”