Festive Cheer: The local impact of Christmas markets

Author LGA, NABMA

This joint LGA and NABMA report looks at the impact Christmas markets have on local communities and how they contribute to the economic wellbeing of the places they are held in. It presents eight case studies on Christmas Markets across the UK, ranging from small two-day events in a small town to the huge multi-week venues in major city centres.

Date added 30 November 2021
Last updated 30 November 2021

*This resource is about Christmas markets. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to activity, markets, attractiveness, and place marketing priorities for High Street vitality and viability*

This report looks at the impact Christmas markets have on local communities and how they contribute to the economic wellbeing of the places they are held in. It opens by stating that Christmas markets have become an established feature of the festive landscape. From an estimated 30 markets in 2007, they have grown to over 100 markets in 2017, with a corresponding increase in the number of days and hours they are open.

Over the years, Christmas Markets have continued to make an increasing contribution to the economic wellbeing of the host town or city and they can be a key tool in the marketing and promotion to increase visitor numbers, allowing the host town or city to offer that additional attraction and compete more effectively against out of town competitors.

In commissioning this research, the LGA wished to capture some of the key benefits of these markets, including the amount of income generated for the area, the number of extra visitors and the number of jobs created. To achieve this, a diverse group of Christmas Markets ranging from two-day events in small towns to the huge multi-week venues in major city centres were assessed, which included:   

  • Manchester Christmas markets, Manchester City Council
  • Birmingham Christmas market, Birmingham City Council
  • Newcastle Christmas market, Newcastle City Council
  • Exeter Christmas market, Exeter Cathedral
  • Bath Christmas market, Bath Tourism Plus & Bath and North-East Somerset District Council
  • Lincoln Christmas market, Lincoln City Council
  • St Albans Christmas market, St Albans City and District Council
  • Victorian Christmas Fayre, Stratford-upon-Avon

The report does note that there is a lack of evidence and data as to how much income markets generate exactly and thus encourage market organisers to record more information about this. Similarly for employment, there is limited information available; however, the research did reveal the following:

Market Visitors

Christmas Markets are bringing a much wider demographic group to markets, attracting new customers of all ages and cultures to the festive markets. Unlike the stereotypical market shopper, who is from the socio-economic C2DE grouping, Christmas Markets are clearly an increasing attraction for higher income earners. Social media marketing is mentioned as a good way of atttracting vistors, with #manchesterchristmasmarkets used 24,308 times on Instagram in 2017 - more than any other market in Europe.

Destinations of Choice

Christmas Markets are seen more as a leisure experience than a shopping experience by many visitors are being increasingly recognised as rivals to their European counterparts. A reflection of this competitive success can be seen in the increasing numbers of coach tour companies organising tours to all the case study markets, bringing visitors from all parts of the UK and overseas.

Economic Impact

Christmas Markets generated at least £500 million to the economy in 2017, based on the information gathered from the case study areas. It should also be noted that a market has a wider economic and employment footprint than the stalls themselves, for example with local supply chains. Some of the big Christmas Markets have annual operating costs in excess of £500,000, which can be expected to boost business for local service providers.

Employment

People employed directly on the market stalls may be the most visible employees, but there are many more people employed indirectly because of the Christmas markets. There are those involved in the construction, servicing, security and stewarding, cleansing, waste management, and promotion and publicity. The research revealed that Manchester had the highest estimated number of employees, at 442, with the average being approximately 270.

The report then goes on to detail ways in which it is possible to ‘design out failure’ from the operations of a Christmas Market, through effective management with a clear delivery strategy. Common themes on how to deliver a successful Christmas market are also outlined:

  • Management and organisation
  • Well designed and laid out
  • Location
  • Authenticity
  • Quality hot food and beverage
  • Showcasing local
  • Maximising benefits for local business
  • Product diversity
  • Trading times
  • Good transport links and parking
  • Promotion and publicity
  • Added attractions
  • Scale
  • Expanding