Organisers promise to look at traffic congestion after hugely popular Victorian Christmas Market
THE Victorian Christmas Market in Stratford created one of the town’s busiest ever weekends, but with it came long tailbacks and traffic congestion.
Organisers have said traffic and parking concerns will be addressed in time for next year’s event, but the feedback from most retailers is that the market, which ran from Thursday to Sunday, gave a much-needed boost to the local economy.
While traffic clogged the roads around town, the pavements were packed with shoppers who had been missed last year because of the Covid restrictions.
New Covid concerns this year saw a number of other Christmas events cancelled across the country, which may have made Stratford’s market even more popular. Many hotels and restaurants reported being fully booked weeks in advance.
Jonathan Lea, manager and director of Loxleys Restaurant and Wine Bar in Sheep Street, said: “We’ve been here nine years and never seen it like that – the town was buzzing. It was a nice atmosphere and good to see the town like it used to be. I spoke with customers and they’d travelled to be here and the hotels were booked weeks before. It was just very, very, very busy.”
Stratforward BID suggested Stratford had just witnessed its busiest weekend ever.
Jasmine Gilhooly, the BID’s marketing and events manager, told the Herald: “Business was booming in Stratford during this year’s Victorian market.
“We had brass bands playing all weekend, which set a lovely atmosphere, and really got people in the mood for spending. The park and ride even had a sell-out.
“Our town hosts, manager Shan Smith, Terry Jones and Ali Buxton said it was great to see the town so busy in the run-up to Christmas, especially after last year.”
She added: “Overall, I think it was safe to say businesses had the best weekend ever.”
Mike Bonner, manager of Timeless Tales in Henley Street, agreed: “Takings were up. With the rent to pay every little helps. I know getting in and out of town was difficult, but there’s a trade-off for what the market brings and most people wore masks.”
Breakfasts proved to be a big hit with customers at Boston Tea Party, also in Henley Street, as assistant manager Jess Knights explained: “It was a record-breaking four days for us with big sales in breakfasts, coffee and alcohol. We had quite a few visitors from up north. It was wonderful and vibrant and we’re very proud of the staff.”
Those traffic queues, however, did have an impact on some with reports of gridlock on Loxley Road, Tiddington Road, Banbury Road, Shipston Road and Warwick Road.
A Stratford resident, who did not wish to be identified, said: “The Victorian market might be good for the town, but it cost me £20 to complete the half-mile journey from my house to the railway station.”
Stratford District Council said in a statement: “The feedback from the Victorian Christmas Market is generally positive, with both traders and town centre businesses reporting a significant increase in customers at this event, with even hotels all being full.
“This year’s event resulted in unprecedented visitor numbers surpassing all expectations, providing a much-needed festive boost to local businesses who have struggled with the impacts of Covid-19 for nearly two years.
“Because it is a free town centre event it is very difficult to estimate the number of visitors; however, in light of the visitor numbers the councils will look at what additional measures can be taken to manage traffic flow and parking in and around the town ahead of next year’s event.”