IT’s one of the most historic and iconic names on Warrington’s high street.

And having weathered the storm of the coronavirus pandemic, Hancock and Wood is gearing up for a bumper Christmas – a return to normality after last year’s festive season was disrupted by pandemic restrictions.

Like many independent businesses, the department store – which has been trading on Bridge Street since 1914 – had the ‘rug pulled from under its feet’ when lockdown measures were reintroduced during November 2020.

Suzie Hancock, the fourth generation of her family to serve as the shop’s custodian, said: “We always work towards this part of the year – it’s completely vital.

“Last year, we had the rug pulled from under our feet in November when we were just building up again.

“It was really strange – it was almost worse than the first lockdown in a way.

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Suzie Hancock

“We were fully shut for the whole of November, when normally gearing up for Christmas and getting all the decorations up.

“But the whole store was like a ghost town. We were trading online so we were in the building, but all the lights were virtually off.

“It was really strange, but we were very busy with all the online orders.

“For most of December, we were allowed to open back up again and we had a fairly good month because everyone was allowed out again.

“We’re hoping that this year we might have a bit more of a stable run up to Christmas.”

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Christmas dinner being served in Hancocks' cafe

And the opening of the new Warrington Market and associated businesses around the Time Square development has provided a timely boost.

“We’re nicely supported this year by the market development because it’s definitely a big draw,” Suzie said.

“We’ve had quite a lot of disruption around the back of the store for a few years.

“It’s been a very long process, but it’s coming back to life and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s definitely helped our footfall.

“In this new age post-Covid, it’s about what the town centre can offer from a leisure and a retail point of view and we just need to get as many people into the town centre as possible to see what Warrington has to offer.”

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Retailers across the UK are still experiencing disruption due to supply chain issues, with warnings that shoppers will be buying gifts and produce extra early as a result.

But Hancock and Wood remains well stocked, with trading conditions steady to date.

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Suzie added: “There are all sorts of supply issues, whether it’s to do with Brexit or lorry drivers, but we’re working around them and making sure that the shop is still very well stocked.

“We haven’t felt that people are starting too much earlier, but whether it will come a bit sooner I’m not sure.

“We’re just hoping we’re going to have a nice normal Christmas.

“I think everyone is really excited about the fact that we might have a normal Christmas in terms of the way we can celebrate, as opposed to last year.”