Bah humbug? St Albans Christmas market has lost £200,000
- Credit: Archant
Despite losses of nearly £200,000 since it was launched three years ago, St Albans Christmas Market is set to open for a fourth season in November.
The district council has taken an early decision to push ahead with the 2016 Christmas market in the Vintry Garden adjoining the Abbey because it believes it is valued by residents and brings in extra custom to local businesses.
But many traders were disillusioned with last year’s market, unhappy about the lack of footfall during the week, the early closure and perceived lack of publicity.
When questioned by the Herts Advertiser, most said they would not be coming back in 2016 because they had not made enough money to cover the cost of renting a chalet there.
Last year’s market lost £51,600 after accruing less income than in 2014 but combined with losses since its inception in 2013, the Christmas market has so far cost council tax payers £196,000.
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Although the number of traders was down last year the market attracted 103,000 visitors over the 25 days it was open. While there were criticisms of the market, they were generally that people wanted to see it grow and flourish.
The council remains confident that it can break even this year and is proposing a number of new initiatives to boost its popularity.
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They are looking at more musical provision, late night opening until 8pm from Thursdays to Saturdays, and, by moving the bar to a more central location, freeing up that site for Santa’s grotto to be moved inside the market.
The aim is to create a more consolidated series of events under the umbrella of Christmas in St Albans, Among the proposals is synchronising the turning on of the Christmas lights with the launch of the market, linking up with the George Street lights switch on and creating closer links to the pantomime at the Alban Arena.
A carol service is also being considered at the Christmas market, either instead of or in addition to the service which is held at the War Memorial at the opposite end of the city centre.
Eric Roberts, of St Albans Civic Society, who highlighted concerns about last year’s market, said this week: “The concept is very good but something has to be done to turn it around. If it was a business it couldn’t go on making three years of losses like this.
“One hopes that the Christmas market will pull itself around.”
St Albans city centre manager, Richard Marrett, said: “The Christmas market has proved to be a great attraction for St Albans over the past few years and continues to grow in popularity. There remains plenty of potential growth for the market to build on its foundations and cement its position within the Christmas celebrations in St Albans.”
He pointed out that the market had attracted “some unjust criticism relating to the operation itself” and there was room for improvement but said it was pleasing to see the district council working hard to develop the brand further.