The Christmas Market's back with the same old problems - Kevin Buckle

It is that time of year again when sides are taken when discussing Edinburgh’s Christmas Market. The core arguments never change and though Underbelly may move things around a bit essentially things have been the same for some time except for last year’s cancellation.

Saturday, 20th November 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 21st November 2021, 10:10 am
Edinburgh's Christmas Market - complete with an array of pop-up food stalls - returns this year

The key points are that the market and the surrounding attractions bring a much needed boost to local businesses by attracting footfall and that in a wider context with 97 per cent of people rating their experience good or very good people visit the city because of this.

With such important cornerstones explaining why Edinburgh Council are so supportive you would have thought somebody might jave delved a little deeper into the facts.

All that extra income for local businesses is easily checked. Just ask them. Have one of those consultations the council is so fond of. However even when so many businesses, especially in hospitality, say they lose business to all the pop-ups that is simply ignored

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One economic analysis checking earlier claims found a formula from the 1980s was being used to simply state that surrounding businesses must be benefitting.

Surely though that 97 per cent approval rate is impressive if indeed a little suspicious. You don’t have to be a keen statistician to realise that such a high figure meant that only three per cent thought the market was excellent or poor – the other standard replies in a four-option questionnaire.

To be fair I asked this very question to Underbelly and they gave me a very honest answer. Excellence wasn’t an option! The only other options apart from Very Good and Good were Poor and Very Poor.

Nobody when questioned by somebody clearly working for the market is going to tell them the market is very poor and to be fair it isn’t. It just isn’t very good.

The thing is this sort of jiggery-pokery manipulation of people’s replies sets the tone for all the figures produced, which one way or another can be distorted in the same way.

This is of course why local businesses are not asked the straightforward question of whether they feel the pop-ups are stealing their busuness because they would give a very forceful reply that the busy pop-ups are taking away their business in plain sight.

Visitors come to Edinburgh for something different and while they get that in many other ways they are given a market you will find in any other city and especially since Avalanche moved so close in Waverley Market that was the feedback I was constantly getting.

There is definitely a place for a market but one that seeks to be different and strives for excellence and visitors should then be left to frequent the many eateries that trade in Edinburgh all year with no pop-up food stalls allowed.

As more retail spaces are given over to food and drink, even now on Princes Street, there can be no argument that further capacity is needed and if ever there was a time local hospitality businesses needed a boost it is now and yet it seems that for this year at least they will face competition again.

There needs to be an honest and independent appraisal of how local businesses can be supported and visitors provided with a unique Christmas experience.