Housewares retailers battle floods and utility supply crisis

As flood waters continue to rise across large swathes of the west and central England, and water and electricity supplies fail, housewares retailers have been abandoning their businesses while others are in a state of alert.

One of the worst-affected flood areas is Gloucester, which, along with Tewkesbury and parts of Cheltenham, is now also without supplies of fresh water. Gloucester retailer Heritage Gifts, which specialises in tableware such as Denby as well as gift lines, has lost its electricity supply too and the staff have now left the premises.

Nearby Tewkesbury has been all but submerged by the floods, and the town is cut off. Tewkesbury Cookshop trades in the high street but, unsurprisingly, no one was there to answer the phone today.

National news bulletins say that it is likely to be several days before water supplies are restored.

Susan Crownshaw, partner in Cheltenham Kitchener, told that some areas of the town had lost their water supply at lunchtime today. “But we’re on the south side of the town and we’ve still got it at the moment. I keep touching lots of wood!”

However, the shop is being affected by flooding in the basement as water rises from under the road. “We’ve had to put defences down,” said Crownshaw. “A mop and a lot of King Canuting is keeping it at bay. I’ve never seen anything like it since I’ve lived in Cheltenham and it’s as bad as it’s ever been in the shop. But it all brings out the Dunkirk spirit!”

In Nailsworth in Gloucestershire Brutons hardware and housewares shop is counting itself lucky that it has so far escaped the worst of the floods. With no sandbags available the store managed to keep the water at bay on Friday by improvising with compost bags stacked up at the front door.

Now, though, customers are starting to worry about losing their electricity supply, according to Brutons’ Graham Stemp. He told “The electricity went off in Gloucester this morning in certain parts, and they’re expecting the main station to go soon, which will affect Stroud. We’re starting to sell loads of candles, and portable gas stoves will be flying out soon.”

Further east, Abingdon in Berkshire has been badly hit with rising water, and there are unconfirmed reports that Cargo’s outlet in the town has been unable to open because of lack of access. also understands that several branches of Robert Dyas have been affected by the situation.

Meanwhile, weather forecasters say more rain is on the way and that the worst is yet to come. The Thames is now threatening Oxfordshire and more parts of Berkshire, including Reading, and Bedford has also been warned to brace itself.

However, Susie Morris, who owns Kitchenalia in Bedford, is confident of escaping any flooding. “We’re up a hill and I think it’s unlikely,” she said. “But if it comes up this far I don’t think there’s anything we could do.”

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