Businesses mull over arrival of Christmas market in Dublin
Good cheer wins out for now despite spat over 68-stall market on St Stephen’s Green
There is little evidence of Scrooge-like bad cheer at Dublin’s Christmas Market on St Stephen’s Green.
As seasonal shoppers strolled among the stalls on Monday, sipping mulled cider and handling the random assortment of decorations, bird houses and handmade jewellery for sale, they seemed pleasantly surprised by the presence of a new pop-up market in the city centre.
While it was beginning to feel a lot – or at least a little – like Christmas on the Green, the festive spirit could be at risk of being drowned out by a territorial row with some retailers and restaurants claiming the 68-stall market is stealing their business in the run -up to the most lucrative time of the year.
Newspaper reports at the weekend suggested outraged retailers were lining up to complain about the market, but Richard Guiney, chief executive of DublinTown, the business initiative behind it, insisted the market was a win-win situation for consumers and businesses and suggested that the resistance was expected.
DublinTown is a collective of 2,500 businesses in the city centre and its raison d’etre is to create “a welcoming and economically viable city-centre environment”, and that is exactly what the market is trying to do, Mr Guiney said.
Since the market was launched on November 13th, the numbers visiting Grafton Street and St Stephen’s Green have gone up by between 23 and 27 per cent, he claimed.
He said that most people polled by DublinTown over the past 10 days had spoken of their visit to the market very favourably, with more than 90 per cent saying that they would spend five times more in the city centre than at the stalls, suggesting that it would be successful in driving business to shops across the city.
“We were expecting some criticism,” Mr Guiney said. “Before the market opened we spoke to businesses in Galway and Belfast, where there are already markets, and they told us to expect a degree of nervousness among businesses. There might be a small number of shop owners complaining, but I suspect that when they look at their books they will see that takings are up.”
He said that in the first weekend about 80,000 people visited the market. “If they all spent just €25 in the city centre after their visit, that would be a total spend of over €2 million.
“We are trying to say ‘shop here’ rather than in one of the out-of-town shopping centres, because you will have a better experience and there is more to do.”
Less than jolly
Adrian Cummins, of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, wasn’t buying it and was feeling less than jolly at the prospect of the market competing with his members for consumer spending.
“We would have to question why there are so many food stalls in the market, so close to restaurants which have to pay very high rates and have much higher overheads.”
Rebecca Beegan, from Edenderry, was won over, however. “I think it’s great. There is a lovely atmosphere here,” she said, sipping steaming cider as her mother, Anne Marie, nodded in agreement and admired the faux-fur hat her daughter had bought.
“We have been to Christmas markets in other countries and it is nice to have one here at home,” she said. “You come up here to soak up a bit of atmosphere and then maybe go and do the bulk of your shopping elsewhere in the city.”