Trying to cut Rudolph’s hair with clippers, Merfyn Williams laughed and told me how much time he’d spent decorating Peter Hickman’s hairdressers, on Gloucester Street, ready for the first day of post-lockdown trade.
“It’s been very busy today, and we certainly needed it to be,” he said.
Stroud town centre was bustling for the first time in weeks, as non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants opened their doors – albeit with Tier 2 restrictions.
Mr Williams wasn’t the only one putting up the Christmas tree; Star Anise and the Retreat were adorned with silver baubles and fairy lights, making even the Perspex glass at the bar seem inviting.
Hanging from the ceiling of Five Valley’s shopping centre were giant sparkling wreaths, which I followed down to Pershore Seafoods.
Greeting me at the counter was Mathue Clark and an array of orange salmons, pink haddock and silver sea bream.
The fishmonger has been open throughout lockdown as an essential shop, but with more people in town since restrictions were relaxed, Mr Clark told me that business was much better.
I walked up the high street and felt a Christmas buzz almost like an ordinary year. Customers were in Moonflower picking gifts for their friends and family, and hungry shoppers queued inside Woodruffs for food. Don’t tell my boss, but I may have joined them.
The change to coronavirus rules has been a lifeline for some independent shops, who need the Christmas trade.
“It sucked the lifeblood out of me being told to close again and it’s been much harder this time around,” said Corinne Price, who runs Butterfly Ball, on Union Street.
She told me it’s been difficult to plan how much stock to hold and that despite doing deliveries, she lost trade to giants like Amazon during lockdown.
Around 50,000 workers have lost their jobs in the South West in 2020, according to Government figures, making shopping locally even more important this Christmas.
When I left town I noticed the front door of Trading Post was open and that crafts were arranged on the pavement outside Mosaics again, and felt like Christmas in Stroud might be something a bit like normal this year, even if I don’t recognise Rudolph with his new trim.