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Should you trade at a Christmas Market?

christmas market

It may be too early for Christmas decorations, but it’s just the right time to get pitches booked into your calendar for the hundreds of Christmas markets that will take over high streets, town squares and public gardens in the next few weeks.

Many traders see the winter months as the quiet season, but sometimes this can lead to worry that if you haven’t secured yourself a place on a long-running Christmas market, you won’t make any money at all until the spring. However, something that we’ve been reiterating to traders recently, is that if you book yourself onto the wrong event, you may discover that you’d have been better off not taking the work at all.

The organisers of many Christmas markets sell pitches upfront to traders that last days, weeks or even longer. This may seem like a great way to earn big profits in the run up to Christmas, but it’s crucial to remember that just because you made a profit at a big summer event, you aren’t guaranteed to make the same money – or any money – at a long-running market in the winter.

There are many variables that can affect how successful you are at a Christmas market. First of all, they usually take place in public areas, so they are not ticketed, and there will likely be fast food outlets, supermarkets and restaurants in the vicinity which will discourage visitors from purchasing from you. Compare this to summer events, which often have a good estimation of predicted footfall, a ban on visitors bringing in their own food, and a designated number of food outlets available, and you can see why a Christmas market may not lead to the same profits for a successful summer trader.

Do your research and keep an eye out for the following when looking for a Christmas market pitch.

How much is the pitch per day?

If an organiser asks you to pay £7,200 up-front for a pitch that lasts, for example, 18 days, it may sound like a good deal, but in fact, that’s a pitch fee of £400 per day. Would you spend the same amount for a one- or two-day pitch in the same location during the summer? If you fail to make a profit on the first day, that’s £800 you’ll need to make on the second day just to cover pitch costs, without taking into account the costs of supplies, staff, power, transport, etc.

How will the location affect sales?

A quiet village market may look beautiful and attract visitors from afar on the weekends, but what about at 11am during the week? Are there enough workers and families passing through the area to make up for the shortfall? A busy city centre market will have much higher footfall, but will visitors want to stand out in the cold or will they head into the nearest café or fast food restaurant to get warm and fed?

Who are the other traders?

An annual Christmas market will attract the same traders every year if it is successful. There may be three or four available pitches, but the majority of traders will have made a great profit last year and will be pleased to be heading back. If all the pitches are available, ask yourself, why are last year’s traders not coming back?

Is the price reflective of the quality of the pitch?

Ask the event organiser for details about the pitch location, and why they believe you will make back the cost of their fee and a profit on top. We always advise traders to offer a percentage of takings instead of an upfront fee, this way, if they event does well, both you and the organiser will profit. If it does badly, you both share the risk. Research other pitches too or ask other traders what they’ve paid in the past. Don’t assume that the price is set in stone, or acceptable, if you haven’t looked at the price of similar events to be sure.

The more research you do, the easier you will find it to identify a good event from a risky one, but remember, even experienced traders can get it wrong sometimes. Give NCASS a call if you need any advice or are unsure about paying for a pitch.

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