Bright Lights, Big Impact: Unwrapping the Economic Magic of Christmas Markets in the UK

Download the 2022 vs 2019 High Street data at the end of this article.

Christmas markets and the glow of festive lights have come to symbolize the holiday season in towns and cities across the UK. This article explores the growth and economic impact of these traditions, particularly in regional towns, and how they create a sense of festive wonder that sparks economic prosperity.

The Flourishing Christmas Market Phenomenon:

Since their humble beginnings from an estimated 30 Christmas markets across the UK in 2007, festive markets have grown to over 150 locations in 2023. These markets have not only expanded in number but have also extended their operating hours and days, driving more and more visitors into town centres. What began as a festive tradition has transformed into a pivotal economic force for host towns and cities.

 Boosting Local Economies and Marketing Power:

Christmas markets have become major contributors to the economic wellbeing of their host locations. In every surveyed area, these markets have proven to be valuable tools for marketing and promotion, helping their host towns and cities boost their weekend and evening economies. Compared to places with no market, towns with Christmas markets saw an 11% increase in visits after 6pm during the week, an 8%  increase in retail footfall, 16% in F&B and 7% in leisure, with towns drawing on average a 21% increase of new visitors. 

Generating Footfall and Retail Turnover in Regional Towns:

Christmas markets play a crucial role in driving footfall and retail turnover in town and city centres, especially during a period when some towns may experience a natural downturn in trade due to out-of-town shopping facilities. These markets become powerful tools, drawing visitors back into town and city centres. 

What’s more, the rise in “out of town” visitors shows the growing appeal of Christmas markets. The data demonstrates substantial increases in visitor numbers, with case study areas reporting remarkable gains: 

 

   Birmingham witnessed a 22% increase.

   Newcastle’s numbers soared by 17%.

   Exeter experienced a substantial 8% rise.

   Bath’s visitor numbers were up by 8%.

   Lincoln welcomed 10% more visitors.

   St Albans reported a notable 9% increase.

   Stratford-upon-Avon saw a remarkable 11% boost.

Drawing in a Different Kind of Visitor:

While footfall has been on the increase, Christmas markets are also drawing in a new type of visitor. In the first 2 weeks Christmas markets drew 11% more family groups, and 8% more higher income visitors.

Christmas markets have also contributed to a 21% increase in brand new visitors, with town centre visitor catchments increasing by 58km on average. 

 

Blackpool Illuminations:

Every year, Blackpool invests more than £2 million in its illuminations, attracting over 3 million visitors. The value to its local economy  is estimated to be more than £200 million each year.

In a strategic move to enhance the town’s allure, Blackpool extended its iconic Illuminations in late 2022 which was a resounding success in terms of footfall.   

Read more >>

This year we are continuing to track the High Streets of the busiest cities across the UK – identifying which cities have recovered post Covid and which have fallen behind.  Our 2023 mobility data, will be released next month but in advance of this you can download last years data for free. 

Download the slide deck here: