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November 1, 2021

Christmas Markets Are Back! The UK’s Best Markets for Textile & Clothing Startups

By: Peter Gregory

At long last, Christmas markets are back! We lost out on Christmas markets in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdowns, but this year, most of the UK’s markets have reopened for business. 

Festive markets are a golden opportunity for small textile and clothing businesses. In this guide, we’ll introduce some of the UK’s best Christmas markets. We’ll help you find a great market in your area, and give you a few pointers on booking the festivals that will work best for your business.

The Best Christmas Markets For Fashion & Textiles

Christmas markets are big business! According to a recent report from the Local Government Association, Christmas markets are worth a whopping £500 million to the UK economy (read the full report). Some markets are food-oriented and others are focused on kids, so it’s important to pick a market that matches your demographic. Some of the best Christmas markets for clothing and textile businesses include…

Lincoln Christmas Market

2 – 5 December 2021

If you’re selling luxury or traditional goods, then Lincoln is the market for you! Founded in 1982, Lincoln is the oldest Christmas market in the UK. Stallholders set up in the very heart of Lincoln’s medieval city centre — between the castle and the cathedral — for a limited weekend run. Unlike many of the newer markets, Lincoln stallholders have to bring their own gazebo — trading units aren’t included in the pitch fee — and fancy dress is a requirement! Learn more about costs and options on the Lincoln Christmas Market Website


Edinburgh’s Christmas

20 November 2021 – 4 January 2022

What better place to sell woollen goods than in one of Britain’s chilliest cities? Incorporating Edinburgh’s world-famous Hogmanay, The Edinburgh Christmas Market runs right through December, staying open right through to the new year. With an Ice Skating rink, a Christmas Tree maze and a vast parade of stalls in Princes Street Gardens, this is probably Scotland’s biggest Christmas market. You can learn more about this year’s Christmas Festival on the Edinburgh’s Christmas website.


Manchester Christmas Markets

12 November – 22 December 2021

Manchester’s Christmas market has always been the place to go if you want to put your brand in front of hundreds of thousands of people. It’s a massive event, with separate markets running from Albert Square, Corn Exchange, Exchange Square, King Street, Market Street, New Cathedral Street and St Ann’s Square in 2021. This year, crowd control measures are being put in place in 2021 to protect against covid, (see the BBC news story here), but it is still set to be a jaw-dropping event! To book a stand, get in touch with Manchester City Council … but do it quickly — this award-winning event books up fast!


Belfast Christmas Market

20 November – 23 December 2021

Set in the grounds of the gorgeous Belfast City Hall, this must-see festive market is a highlight of the festive calendar in Northern Ireland! Belfast is almost as busy as Manchester — in previous years this market has attracted over one million people. This year, organisers are asking all weekend visitors for proof of vaccination. To find out more about the event and to book a stall, visit marketplaceeurope.co.uk/events/ 


Cardiff Christmas Market

11 November – 23 December 2021

If you make textile products or leather goods, then Cardiff is the place to be. Spread out over St John Street, Working Street, Trinity Street and the Hayes, Cardiff’s festive market has a unique focus on handcrafted products. The organisers have put a real focus on small businesses this year — they’re even offering ‘trader taster’ stalls at a discount for first-time stallholders. If you’re looking for somewhere to sell cushions, rugs or bags, then take a look at the Cardiff Christmas Market website.


Bournemouth Alpine Market

19 November – 2 January 2022

Selling everything from Christmas jumpers to Tibetan shawls, the Alpine Market in Bournemouth Square is the perfect destination for local clothing startups. With a vast apres-ski themed bar and a child-friendly Christmas tree, the market attracts a broad demographic of customers hungry for unique Christmas gifts. All of the alpine-style stalls are lockable, which means you don’t have to pack up at the end of every trading day! Learn more at Christmas in Bournemouth


York: St Nicholas Fair

 18 November – 23 December 2021

There’s something magical about the St Nicholas Fair! Running from St Sampsons Square to the Shambles, York’s Christmas market sits in the very heart of York’s shopping district. It attracts a vast crowd of varying ages and — like the Bournemouth market — offers alpine-style chalets to stallholders. If you’re selling small gifting items, then York Christmas market could be perfect for you! You can find out more on the Visit York website.


I hope this list gives you food for thought. It’s by no means a full list — there are hundreds of incredible markets all over the country, in just about every major town. If you’re in an area not covered by our list, our advice is to pick up the phone to your local council. Someone in the events team will be able to tell you where the nearest Christmas market is going to be held (they may even be in charge of running it).


First time trader? Here’s what to watch out for…

If this is your first time booking space at a Christmas market, there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Keep it Christmassy! When people come to a Christmas market they are looking for gifts and festive treats for themselves and their friends and family. You need a product line that feels right for the season. 
  • You have no changing room! When you take a stall in an open-air market, passing shoppers won’t be able to try on your garments (especially if it’s a cold winter’s day). Avoid tight-fitting clothes and fill your rack space with products that people will buy off the shelf. Scarves, bags, rugs and cushions are all great options. 
  • Watch your schedule! Christmas stalls are hard work, especially if you try to run more than one of them at a time. You need to have enough stock and staff at each market stall, so avoid spreading yourself too thin. If you’re just starting out, our advice is to pick just one market (the biggest and most popular one you can afford) and then give that market your full attention. 
  • Check the facilities! Not every market offers a trading cabin. Some market organisers will just point you to a 3 x 3 empty patch of tarmac. If you have to set up a gazebo, arrange your own internet connection for card payments and hook up your own power supply, then you’ll need to factor this in to your costs. 
  • Is there an exclusivity agreement? Some market organisers might be willing to give you exclusive rights to sell a certain type of product from your stall. The flipside of this is that they may also prohibit you from selling certain items due to exclusivity agreements with other stallholders. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re allowed to sell from your stall before you sign on the dotted line.
  • What paperwork do you need? Every local council has their own rules on market stall paperwork. Food vendors need separate hand washing facilities and hygiene certification, for instance, whereas clothing and textile businesses may only need public liability insurance. Make sure you understand what needs to be done on the paperwork front. You don’t want to turn up on your first day to find out that you can’t trade without a covid risk assessment document, for instance. Event organisers can usually give you a steer on this. 
  • Are there any guarantees? You need to make sure that your stall fee can be reclaimed if the event doesn’t go ahead for any reason. Most organisers will have insurance for unavoidable situations like bad weather, and some may even offer a full refund if the market has to be cancelled due to a covid-related lockdown. Make sure you get any guarantees in writing before you book your stall.

Whatever you do, try to get involved in at least one Christmas market this year … even if it’s on a small scale. These markets give you a great opportunity to speak to your buyers face-to-face. You can watch how shoppers react to your designs (and your pricing) in a way that you just can’t do when you’re selling online. The more you know, instinctively, about what your buyer wants and what they like about your product, the better your business will become. 

And as always, if you have any questions, get in touch! 

Thanks for reading!

Pete

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