St George's biting back in battle of Belfast markets
Belfast's St George's Market is fighting back against the Christmas shopping appeal of the City Hall's Continental Market.
It has just announced three extra weekday evening openings this week and next in order to cash in on the predicted footfall of a million shoppers at the rival Continental Market.
St George's Market in May Street has been feeling a little left out amid the recent attention on the Continental Market.
The city's Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir visited the traditional market last night to show his support to the traders.
Yesterday marked the first Christmas opening night of the year. Stalls will open extra hours in the run-up to the big day.
St George's was badly impacted by last year's flag protests.
"Our Continental Market is the most successful in these islands and is a major draw for visitors coming into Belfast.
"It's predicted that we might get one million footfall this year," said the Lord Mayor.
"But it is of no purpose or benefit for this city to have a successful Continental Market that damages St George's. We need both to succeed.
"We have to ensure that there's footfall for both – they are different offerings and I'm here tonight to ask the traders if we are doing enough to encourage footfall."
He said a market such as St George's was part of any thriving, vibrant European city and said that he hoped to see further pop-up farmers' markets, trading on different days, in Bankmore Street and Bedford Street.
Unlike the Continental Market, where there has been some criticism of high prices – such as burgers costing £6. A St George's cheeseburger costs £3.75 and a savoury crepe cooked to order will set you back £4.
Traders told the Belfast Telegraph that St George's was all about great stalls and food, music and entertainment under one roof. Paddy Lynn, a fourth generation trader who deals in recycled antiques, said shoppers would find local traders at the market 52 weeks of the year.
Trader Jo Devlin of Rusticojo, who handmakes rustic bags, believes that the attention to detail in many items on sale make it a different experience to the Continental Market.
Tracey O'Boyle from Love Olive, which also has a stand at City Hall, said that many Belfast people still don't realise that St George's is a three-day market.
All shoppers have a chance of winning one of 100 free gifts in a major draw next week all donated from the traders.
Prizes range from a bicycle to a meal for two.
St George's Market is open from 4-9pm tonight and tomorrow this week, as well as next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
It will be open on Christmas Eve for last minute fresh meat and vegetables. Weekend trading is every Friday from 6am to 1pm, Saturday 9am-3pm, and Sunday 10am-4pm.
A free bus runs every 20 minutes from the city centre – stopping at Boots the Chemist in Donegall Place and HMV in Castle Place – to the market.
It departs at 8am on Friday and 9am on Saturday, and every 20 minutes thereafter on both days.