The rise of late night shopping in Hartlepool

Times were changing in Hartlepool in 1984 when weekly late night opening arrived at Middleton Grange.
Times were changing in Hartlepool in 1984 when weekly late night opening arrived at Middleton Grange.

It was all change in Hartlepool’s shops in 1984 where bargain hunters were enjoying a real feast of festive browsing.

Today, we look back on the year when more than 50 outlets in Middleton Grange were planning to stay open until 8pm on the three Thursdays before Christmas. It was the first time it had ever happened.

Live entertainment in the shopping centre.

Live entertainment in the shopping centre.

And in another development for the retail world, this was the year when the movement began to introduce Sunday shopping.

Chris Cordner reports.

Hartlepool really was ramping up the Christmas spirit in 1984.

From York Road to the shopping centre, the town seemed to be really up for a ho-ho-holiday that year.

In York Road, J Westmoreland and Son was ideal for lighters, watches, bracelets, crystal animals and a great collection of fine china.

If you had a gardener in the family, Cornforth Garden Supplies in York Road was offering 6ft yuccas, £3.99 poinsettias, and hanging plants.

Still in the same street, Cameo had all the fashions for all occasions including evening gowns, warm winter dresses, tweed suits, and cocktail dresses.

And it was bucking the trend by declaring it would be open every Wednesday afternoon.

But 1984 was the year of even more change ... the year when shoppers were getting the chance to extend their browsing time.

For the first time, shops in Middleton Grange were opening at 8pm once a week in the lead-up to Christmas but that was just the start.

A brand new organisation, the Middleton Grange Traders Association, had just been formed and it was the group behind the great line-up of live entertainment to accompany the extra shopping time.

If you loved seasonal carols, there were bands galore to belt out a tune and greet bargain hunters.

Manor School, Hartlepool Youth Choir, and the Hartlepool Secondary Schools Wind Orchestra were all performing.

So were Billingham Silver Band, and High Tunstall Band and Choir.

The Traders Association also organised discount bus fares on the three evenings of late-night opening. And those who brought their cars only had to pay 20 pence for the privilege.

Extra Christmas lights went up shoppers could compete for prizes such as suitcases, alarm clocks, hair dryers and cameras.

And there was a huge Christmas tree in the centre of Middleton Grange to add to the festive feel.

And if late nights were not enough, Sunday trading was moving closer to reality.

It brought mixed feelings in town.

Churches were against it – as they felt it meant people would work at the expense of their leisure time – but traders were in favour.

What are your memories of half day Wednesdays, the start of late-night shopping and the rise of Sunday opening.

Email chris.cordner@jpimedia.co.uk.