Stallholder in Victoria Square hits out over trading charge hike
A weekend stallholder at Belfast's high-end Victoria Square shopping centre has hit out at the centre for increasing the daily charge for trading.
The trader, who did not wish to be named, said the charge had been increased from £30 to £55 including value added tax (Vat).
Around 20 makers of handmade goods such as art, jewellery and foodstuffs, set out tables in the thoroughfare in the basement of the shopping centre every Sunday.
Their wares must be handmade in Northern Ireland before a seller to qualify for a stall.
The trader said prices have increased from around £20 per day two years ago to the present high. No-one from the centre or its property agents was made available for comment.
The businesswoman said the increased charge would eat into any profits made from a day's trading.
"Some days you could make a phenomenal amount but other days there could be nothing," she said.
"Before the downturn, we focused a lot on cruise ships but we haven't been getting the same strong tourist trade any more."
The trader also said Belfast City Council had imposed a daily charge of £6 per stall, after acting on a "medieval" law.
A spokesman for the city council said it had imposed a new regime of charging in order to update a law from 1613.
Now those holding markets were charged a one-off administration fee, as well as a daily fee of £6 per stall.
But the trader said the higher charge imposed by the agents was unfair.
"We feel we are footing the bill to keep the other shops in the centre open.
"We counted it up and found that what we pay in one day, pays for the rent on one shop for a week.
"For me, I am thinking, why work hard to give the centre more money?"
The trader claimed: "They are taking more than they are giving."