26 September 2017   |  Last Updated 14-12-2014 06:33

      Thursday 11, December 2014

      "The nightmare before Christmas" for businesses in Manchester

       

       

      Local bar and restaurant owners in the areas surrounding the Christmas Market sites have complained about an increase in litter on the streets and decline in sales over the past three weeks.


      Thousands of people have flocked to the Manchester Christmas Markets since they opened on Friday 14th November, for what has now become an annually anticipated event. The sights, smells and sounds are a treat that grace the city for only six weeks each year so it seems only right to make the most of them.

       

      Over this year’s opening weekend, the markets hosted record breaking crowds of over 200,00 people who spent an estimated £2mil across the 300 stalls which are dotted throughout the city centre.

       

      Most stalls follow a traditional European theme and offer cooked delights and handmade crafts at a relatively high end price, though one cannot turn their nose up at the fact that every food and drink stall has been awarded a 5 star hygiene rating under the Food Standard Agency’s Hygiene Rating Scheme.               

                                 

      It seems however; that the markets are not all candy canes and jingle bells for the surrounding businesses and in some cases the restaurants and bars have suffered a great deal both financially and environmentally in the past few weeks.

       

      Tiarn Mahney who is part of the bar staff at The Slug and Lettuce in Albert Square said the six weeks when the markets are open are by far the busiest of the year. Despite making more than the target average of £70,000 on sales over each week by around £2,000, the staff is eagerly awaiting the end of the festive season after many long and tiring shifts.

       

      “It’s been so busy in the restaurant, a few customers are unhappy because they have to wait for tables or their food, but it can’t really be helped because a lot of people come across after the markets close”.

       

      Weary: Tiarn Mahney bar staff at The Slug and Lettuce is exhausted after the Christmas boom Weary: Tiarn Mahney bar staff at The Slug and Lettuce is exhausted after the Christmas boom

       

      Mike Edge owns The Splendid Sausage Company, a restaurant which opened on John Dalton Street in April. It is located just below the Albert Square market site and Mike says they have caused nothing but hassle for his weekday business and he has noticed a drop in customers specifically on the weekday lunch time slot.

       

      “We have been getting a lot of rubbish dumped right outside of our shop, and we pay for that bin to be collected and emptied each week. Our bin people won’t collect it because rubbish is not in the actual bin. It seems to be more from market traders than the actual public too”.

       

      Let down: The Splendid Sausage owner Mike Edge is not happy with Manchester City Council’s organisation of the marketsLet down: The Splendid Sausage owner Mike Edge is not happy with Manchester City Council’s organisation of the markets

       

      Relatively speaking, the aforementioned high end prices of food in the markets being £4.50 for a lukewarm helping of pork in a bread roll smeared with a stuffing paste; is only £2 cheaper than a hotdog meal including fries and a side salad at The Splendid Sausage.

       

      Mike’s wife Emily, who also works at the restaurant added: “our delivery drivers are finding it really difficult because there is a big flower truck that parks right in front of our shop for hours on end, so our drivers are going round and round trying to find some where convenient to pull up and this pushes back all of our preparation time”.

       

      It is quite astounding that even though Manchester City Council is proud to host the markets each year, they are less likely to take into consideration matters such as waste disposal and traffic congestion. However there was nobody available from the council to comment on the subject when contacted.

       

      Surely it is their responsibility to provide an adequate disposal service for the market vendors as well as people such as Mike, who pay for their businesses’ own disposal service on top of the hefty rent charges paid throughout the year.

       

      Paul who works on a sausage stall in Albert Square was not allowed to disclose details regarding business over the market period

       Paul who works on a sausage stall in Albert Square was not allowed to disclose details regarding business over the market period.

       

      When approaching the vendors working on the food stalls at the market, I was told by various people, Paul who works on a hot-dog stall in Albert Square (pictured above) included, that they were not able to discuss the effects on business directly, however he said most vendors work over 12 hours per day with only one day free.

       

      I was also told by a Paul’s colleague Isla, who works on the neighbouring crepe stall De Creperie, that the hours are long and tedious and there are times during the weekdays especially, when there is simply nothing to do given so many people own similar food stalls and a lot of people work the same shifts.

       

      “It’s too quiet during the week and I have nothing to do, it is cold too. I start work at nine the market’s close at nine and I leave at around 10.30”.

       

      When asked if she enjoyed her job she simply offered a grimace, I assume leaving me to take from that what I will.

       

      The De Creperie stall at the Manchester Christmas Markets. Source: Chris via. Flickr

      The De Creperie stall at the Manchester Christmas Markets. Source: Chris via. Flickr

                       

      Though many vendors and business have suffered throughout this period, there are a number that rely solely on profit from the markets. Others who continue to run their own businesses throughout the year, such as ex Coronation Street star Sean Wilson who owns a cheese stall on Kings Street, say the markets have brought nothing but popularity and a boom to their business.

       

      Dave Slattery who works on the Slattery Chocolatier stall on Exchange Street said: “it has drummed up business for both our shop and this stall. People who perhaps live on the other side of Manchester have been coming to the shop and our tea rooms and we direct people up to the shop in Bury if we have run out of a product on this stall”.

       

      Of course this is the perspective of the market vendor and not a local business. One would assume if the Slattery shop permanently uprooted from Bury to Albert Square for example, Dave might also feel the force of the market and even see the business which was established in 1967, decline in sales as the crowds descend on the market stalls.

       

      With more and more people visiting the markets each year, it seems unlikely that the end of a struggle for local businesses around the festive season is in sight. As only two weeks are left until the markets close, owners can do nothing but count down the days and brave the calm before the storm and the markets reopen again next November.

       

      by Sofia Rewilak

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