Christmas market cancellations will leave many cheesemakers short on sales
Cheesemakers and mongers are facing big drops in revenue during the festive period as Christmas market cancellations across the country are announced because of COVID-19.
Large festive events in Bath, Birmingham, London, Lincoln and Leeds have been called off, leaving a shortfall in many cheese companies’ accounts just before the quiet trading period after Christmas.
“Bath Christmas Market has become a very important revenue stream, so we’re very concerned,” said Katherine Spencer, co-owner of Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. “The income we make there helps carry us through January, February and March.”
Around 400,000 people visit the 18-day Bath Christmas Market each year, spending around £7m, but the event was cancelled in July because of coronavirus.
“It attracts bus-loads of people from Brighton, Birmingham and London,” said Spencer. “So it was also good exposure, allowing us to promote our online business and people to taste the cheese.”
A virtual market will run instead this year, while the cheesemaker plans to hold its own festive evening outside its shop in Cheddar.
Evesham-based cheesemonger The Truckle Cheese Company, which makes 80% of its sales from markets and shows, is also concerned about Christmas trading.
“Christmas is one of our busiest times of the year, and so cancellation of some of the Christmas markets will have a significant impact on a period which is usually very profitable,” said owner Adrian Nichols, who is adapting the business to make more of online sales.
“We are not sure how confident people will be about heading out to buy face-to-face again, amid fears of a second wave. This has already been reflected in 2020 event attendance levels, and in customer willingness to sample food in close proximity to others, even outdoors. Inevitably, even if shows resume in 2021, there is no certainty that consumer confidence will return completely.”
In Leeds, cheesemaker Mario Olianas said he could make as much as £2,000 in a day’s trading at Otley Victorian Christmas Fayre, which has also been cancelled this year. “That is a big hit to a business my size,” he said. “I’ll have to make it up through online sales and at farmers’ markets, which have thankfully kept going.”