Christmas Markets all over the country are lighting up the festive period with local commercial properties, offices and small businesses basking in the glow. In winter, markets from Edinburgh to London have become staples of the city centres, allowing other franchises within the area the opportunity to attract more custom at the most competitive time of year for retailers.
Lincoln Christmas Market has already broken records for the busiest Christmas Market ever to be held in the city. An estimated 200,000 festive shoppers have passed through the Bailgate area where the market is situated, after 2010’s disappointment when the market was shut down due to heavy snowfall.
Commercial retail property owner Nick Ridout says: “From a commercial aspect, it’s been a great year for me, for other traders around the area and for the stallholders themselves. I think a lot of people were coming out to show their support for the market because it was missed last year.”
“There were absolutely packed crowds throughout the three and a half days of the market. It was excellent.”
Nichola Bell, Manager at Grayz Tearoom, agreed with Mr Ridout, saying that “All the local businesses do really well out of the market. I’ve never seen it so busy in my life, and I’ve never worked so hard! We’re a new business, so nobody knew what to expect.”
It was a similar story in Manchester, where it’s German Market in Albert Square, claimed to be the “most popular Christmas Market ever.” The opening weekend alone saw more than 67,500 people visit the site. Manchester’s German Market is one of the most popular in the country and increases in size year by year due to the success of its trading.
Councillor Pat Karney says: “In these difficult times, it is fantastic to see these markets bucking the trend. They have a vital role to play in attracting visitors to the city centre in the run-up to Christmas. If the opening weekend is anything to go by, we could be looking at the most successful Christmas Markets ever.”
A study conducted in 2009 estimated that the annual Christmas Market generates economic benefits in the region of £50 million for Manchester, with many of the profits being made by commercial retail properties such as River Island and Starbucks. This is due to a much higher volume of customers passing in the region of the Christmas Market and visiting shops in its vicinity.
Store Manager of Starbucks on Albert Square, Tim Dolphin, certainly agrees with the findings of the study, as he believes the number of customers passing through their doors doubles during the Christmas Market season.
“The Christmas Market brings in a lot of business, a lot of custom and a lot of sales, and as soon as the market finishes business gets quiet again. We get around 1,500-2,000 more customers each week as a result of the Christmas Market,” Mr Dolphin stated.
However, Christmas Markets may not bring rising profits to all commercial properties in their local area – in fact, sometimes the opposite can be true. While chain stores such as Starbucks, Topshop and many others found in the Deansgate Shopping Centre stand to make a lot of profit from the overspill custom of the Christmas Market, smaller businesses that own, perhaps only one or two commercial properties in the area claim that the market is threatening their own niche markets and causing falling sales.
Businesses like newsagents and craft shops, which often stock market staples such as greetings cards and wrapping paper, as well as festive decorations and smaller presents, feel that the market is pushing in on their custom and enticing customers away from the year-round stores that would normally stock holiday essentials. With the large range and festive feel of the market, they argue that it is impossible to compete with the themed stalls and lower prices.
So although, in broader terms, the Christmas Market benefits the city centre, smaller traders and commercial property owners can feel the pinch at this time of year. Buying from an independent business, rather than a chain store, may well redress that balance and give everyone a happy, successful Christmas.