Christmas Markets- is their time over?

Alicia Boukersi | 25th November 2017

Markets have always been the signal that the start of the Christmas season is upon us. Quiet town halls are replaced by riotous marquees attempting to sell the world’s weirdest collection of bric-a-brac. Fresh air is exchanged for that oddly festive smell of hot dogs, waffles and Yorkshire pudding wraps. Every day closer to Christmas, the hustle and bustle of European cities seem to grow as visitors turn up to mark the celebration.

In recent weeks I have attended London, Birmingham, Liverpool and my home-city Manchester’s Christmas markets, but something was off. Is it just me that’s noticed this year’s not been as popular as its predecessors?

A spokeswoman for the Manchester Council boasted that the markets were on track to “break all records” as 80,000 mugs had been sold within the first fortnight. Compared to other cities who saw a decrease in sales, Manchester’s footfall was up 13.4% according to the Business Improvement District.

Luthfur Rahman, the executive member for schools, culture and leisure, has also praised the markets for being so popular saying: “It’s already been an incredible year. The stats support what we are seeing and what traders are feeding back”.

Sure. Okay, but is that what market traders thought? I went out in Manchester to ask them directly.

Earth Rock Stone, a unique jewelry store, has been selling at the markets since its conception 18 years ago. A worker, who insisted they remained anonymous, told us that their sales have gone down to the point that they have had to lower some of the prices of their products by 50%. The fear of bankruptcy and debt are real. They laughed at the idea of markets seeing more visitors this year, describing it as a “straight up lie”.

“There might be more food and drinks selling, but for companies like us, it’s certainly going downhill”.

What is it that’s causing this drop in sales though? Well, Phil Gordon from Just The Cheese has his own possible explanation.

Phil isn’t alone wondering whether Brexit has had an effect on the markets success. With many traders relying on seasonal migrant work to run their stalls, some business owners have stopped coming to England. Instead, they are choosing to visit other EU countries to avoid paperwork and costs. The rate of the pound has decreased meaning trade is becoming more expensive. According to the Bank of England, the level of business investment is expected to get lower by 2019, thus having a negative effect on productivity growth.

Emma Mccluskey from Manchester Liquorice (MCR Liquorice) believes it could be down to something else, however.

After a disheartening year in Manchester that saw 22 deaths at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, many people are scared of another terror attack. The current threat level towards the UK from international terrorism has remained severe since May.

It’s also almost the one-year anniversary of the terror attack at the Berlin Christmas Markets. It left 12 people dead and another 56 people injured and needing hospital treatment. This has led to the introduction of armed police patrolling Manchester’s Christmas Markets for the first time. Undercover officers have also been deployed to mingle within the crowds and provide safety if needed.

For what it’s worth, Manchester Police have insisted they are doing all they can to protect the public. Police Officer Chris Hill said: “We are absolutely committed to keeping people safe as they enjoy everything Manchester has to offer over the festive period. Both visitors and staff should be vigilant and watch their surroundings”.

I hope that the markets do become more popular as Christmas creeps closer and that market traders can earn the money they need to keep working. It’s a scary thought that people wanting to celebrate can’t do so because they’re worried about the current climate, but we can’t let terrorists win. It’s become a cliché comment but it is one that resonates with us all. We must show we are strong and that we can not be defeated. The only thing that we should let defeat us is the hangover from mulled wine and the food coma from too many Christmas canapés.

For more information on the Christmas markets, click here.