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Local business fears over Christmas market

Small Yorkshire businesses could miss out on potentially millions of pounds in sales, with the news of the York St Nicholas’ Christmas Markets 2020 being cancelled.

Local artisan producers rely on this festive period to boost sales, more than ever with the pandemic.

Last year’s Christmas festival brought in £57 million and over 350,000 visitors helping to boost the economy.

Holding onto the title of ‘The UK’s most festive city’, York will still try to bring festive cheer. However, this year it will be spread virtually instead.

Visit York said: “The health and well-being of our residents, visitors, traders and the city as a whole is, as ever, our top priority and so this year we will instead focus on a virtual Christmas market.”

The annual Christmas lights switch on has also opted for a more distanced approach by being aired virtually.

One local North Yorkshire business affected is ‘The Chilli Jam Man’ run by Simon and Bonita Barrett full time.

(Image: Nick Fletcher, Flickr)

Set up in 2009, they usually run a market stall at the Christmas markets in York and at markets in the surrounding area throughout the year.

As well as food markets, they supply sauces to companies such as Revolution Bars nationwide so they were further affected when the country ceased hospitality trade.

One part of the business however that has soared during lockdown is their website.

Bonita said: “We’ve found that customers have not only been bulk buying their favourite products, they’ve also been sending lots of gifts to loved ones too.

“Writing out our postcard messages to loved ones has been really heartwarming! We’re preparing ourselves for a very online-based Christmas.”

They also have stock in the permanent cheese cabin in York for shoppers in the city centre.

Asked if they thought the government offered enough support for businesses, the couple said: “They’ve certainly tried. I know lots of people have been quick to fire blame, but they’ve been dealing with a unique situation.

“I just wish there was a way that people who have fallen through every loophole could get the help that they deserve, as this country relies on small businesses and the self-employed. We were able to use their furlough scheme for a while, but we’re fortunately back running at full strength again.”

Asking them what advice they would give to struggling businesses during this time Bonita said: “Take a step back and try to see your business through fresh eyes.  A lot of us have needed to adapt or completely change our businesses during this crazy period, but change isn’t always a bad thing.”

One way the business adapted was through opening a second business offering pick and mix called ‘Candy Mouth’ aimed at a much larger audience: “It was a risk, but we’ve enjoyed the journey and we’re now looking forward to seeing what the future brings.”