ALTHOUGH Santa and his elves won't be taking up residence in their grotto in The Ryemarket this year - the shopping centre's boss is determined to create a feeling of the Christmas spirit.

The continuing coronavirus crisis has meant a rethink of festivities that would normally have taken place.

But the Christmas lights have gone up, Costa is serving its seasonal coffees and Ryemarket centre manager Kelley Dyas says she'll be doing all she can to embrace the season of goodwill.

She said: "This year has looked very different for everyone and at The Ryemarket we were hoping that Christmas would offer an opportunity for a little bit of normality with our normal free grotto that we put on for our community every year.

"Unfortunately, with the rising cases in the area we have had to re think our plans.

"The usual grotto will not be going ahead – however we have put some alternate plans together so we can still embrace the Christmas spirit."

The Ryemarket is working along with Dudley CVS on its annual Operation Santa and will be donating £500 worth of essential goods and presents to help ensure no one in the local community goes without this Christmas.

The Maxi Saver store in the centre is one of the Stourbridge drop off points for any gifts members of the public may wish to donate. A list of suitable gifts and essential items can be found on The Ryemarket website.

Kelley says she has also asked Santa to record some messages while preparing for the big day which will be shared on the centre's social media channels throughout December.

A special post box will also be in The Ryemarket from Saturday November 28 so little ones can send their Christmas wish lists and letters directly to Santa.

The yellow post box will be by the large Christmas tree next to Costa Coffee.

Kelley added: "We will miss the usual Christmas build up with the lights switch on, market and fair and our grotto – but we want to ensure the safety of our community and staff. However, we are determined to spread some Christmas cheer."