Traders not put off as Belfast's Christmas Continental Market pitches up again
Optimistic traders have returned to Belfast's Christmas Continental Market despite the impact of last year's flag protests on the festive event.
The chief executive of the company behind the market confirmed that no trader had deserted Belfast this year in fear of a repeat of the loyalist demonstrations of 2012.
"There's been no trader refusing to return to the Belfast Continental Market," confirmed Alan Hartwell of Marketplace.
"They are still positive about Belfast and are looking forward to coming back."
Mr Hartwell said that at least 15 new traders at the City Hall market, starting on Saturday, had been picked out to "refresh" the experience for shoppers.
However, he said that while traders last year still managed to do well, Belfast had lost out to the tune of £10m.
He said that an economic benefit report compiled last year and issued in the new year had shown the city would have benefited by £32m. This fell to £22m due to the impact of the loyalist demonstrations on the morale of shoppers and visitors to the city.
"Traders had a brilliant first two weeks last year, where they did better than expected," he said.
"Whatever negative benefit there was it would have been to the city's economic product, not the traders, as it still managed to even out for them.
"We were on our way to achieve over 800,000 in footfall but then the demonstrations happened and footfall dropped to around 550,000, less than the previous year's 700,000."
This year organisers say that 40% of the traders are local.