Concerns after St Albans Christmas market losses approach a quarter of a million pounds

St Albans Christmas Market bar with the cathedral in the background

St Albans Christmas Market bar with the cathedral in the background - Credit: Archant

Fears over the viability of St Albans Christmas market have been raised again after last year’s event made a loss of around £53,000.

In the four years since it launched the market has never made a profit, racking up a bill of more than £230,000 since it began in 2013.

In a report by the Herts Ad in March last year, some traders expressed disillusionment with the 2015 event and said they would not be letting chatlets again for 2016 because of a lack of footfall and publicity – as expected, less stalls were let compared to 2015.

There were 49 rented in 2015, and only 33, plus seven designers, last year.

Efforts made to create a more consolidated series of events for this year, including synchronising the city centre lights switch-on with the market launch, were not enough to ensure the event broke even.

Year by year, the previous deficit was £45,503 lost for 2015, £57,449 for 2014 and £79,455 in 2013.

This loss comes despite a record number of visitors to the market – 118,000 according to a report presented to St Albans district council’s (SADC) community, environment, and leisure scrutiny committee.

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It reported that 67 per cent of these people came from outside St Albans, and district Cllr Simon Grover pointed out that parking charges alone from tourists coming in would have covered the loss.

He said it is a shame that on paper, the event is making a loss: “We also need to take into consideration the accumulated benefit to the city as a whole event.

“The Christmas market is an opportunity to invigorate the local economy, and it’s clear that thousands and thousands of people came to the Christmas market and then went to the restaurants and shops in the city, so there’s definitely an economic advantage.”

Other SADC committee members agreed, and were positive about the event, but thought more research needed to be done to find out exactly how much money was filtering through to the city centre.

It was suggested it would be more successful if it were in a more central location, had better signage, and if it ran closer to Christmas. It currently stops on December 20.

Cllr Anthony Rowlands, chair of the committee, confirmed to the Herts Ad that it will still be taking place next year: “That wasn’t in question, what we were doing was expressing serious concerns.

“We have highlighted some issues which I suspect that at the end of this year’s event, after some work has been done, we will consider again to see if this market is on the right trajectory to flourish.”

He added that the Meraki tent, which was an addition this year, helped provide extra entertainment with craft activities and musical performances.

St Albans city centre manager, Richard Marrett, declined to comment when approached by the Herts Ad.