Cardiff Christmas Market stall owners are reporting half their usual income this winter

Stall owners at the Christmas market in Cardiff have experienced a significant drop in revenue compared with previous years.

The Christmas markets in Cardiff, tucked below the 12th century St John the Baptist City Parish Church

Stall owners at the Cardiff Christmas markets are facing a substantial drop in their income compared with last year, due in large part to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Christmas market, which is open between November 12th and December 23rd this year, has remained open despite a significant rise in Covid cases in Wales over the last few weeks.

One stall owner, Sylvia Davies, said: “I’ve got a wider range of products this year, but about half the income [compared with last year].”

Sylvia Davies runs a business called Etoeto which sells bags, pouches, and wallets made from recycled materials including bicycle inner tubes, abandoned tents and broken umbrellas. ‘Etoeto’ is Welsh for ‘again again’.

“In my first week I was panicking thinking what have I done wrong, but I have gone and asked all of the traders, and everybody’s down.  Compared to last year, like with like, we’ve been finding significant differences.”

As a new business, Davies has not received any support from the Welsh Government. “Because my business started less than a year before Covid I haven’t had a penny of support.”

As well as this, the support offered to businesses by Cardiff Council required a demonstration of lost income when comparing January and February with March and April. Like many at the Christmas market, Davies’ business is seasonal, and she spends these months doing public development and designing products.

“My type of business, it’s a seasonal business, I do the main holidays, so it’s Christmas, spring, and summer. There’s nothing in January and February so I couldn’t apply, cos I couldn’t show that dramatic drop in income.”

A café in the Castle grounds, completely empty.

There had been some consideration put into cancelling the market due to fears over Covid, and other cities including Edinburgh and Plymouth have chosen to cancel theirs.

Another major Cardiff attraction, Winter Wonderland, will not be going ahead this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and has been replaced with ‘Christmas at the Castle’. The Castle festivities feature a number of coronavirus restrictions in order to limit the spread, including a one-way system in and out, and numerous soap dispensers.

Cardiff Castle, one of the city’s biggest attractions, remains sparsely populated

The castle is already one of Cardiff’s main features, but despite this the number of people visiting Christmas at the Castle has been fairly low. Unlike the bustling hubbub of Queen Street, Cardiff Castle rarely sees more than 10 to 15 groups or couples at any one time, a small number considering the space within the grounds. While this does limit the spread of the virus, it also brings forth the question of whether these festivities should have been cancelled altogether.

The Castle grounds look empty even during daylight

The rate of coronavirus in Wales has risen sharply over the last month, from 224 per 100,000 people in the week prior to 23 November, up to 327 cases per 100,000 in the week prior to 5 December. The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Frank Atherton, has said the rate is now as high as 350 per 100,000, and urged people to not mix outside their household in the run up to Christmas.

The markets are a staple of Christmas in Cardiff but considering the drop in tourism from other parts of Wales, the stalls are struggling to make as much money as they have previously. Without a more extensive support network in place, businesses will be forced to remain open in order to maintain some income, a dangerous prospect as we see coronavirus cases continue to spike.