Take a quick trip into Birmingham city centre and you might be forgiven for forgetting we live in a world where a high street giant such as Woolworths can collapse so dramatically.
Anyone who has been to Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market this year will know it takes a will of iron to plough through the after-work crowds in order to get even a whiff of Glühwein or Bratwurst.
Birmingham City Council confidently expects the market will beat last year’s visitor numbers of 2.3 million, saying it will easily exceed 2.5 million this festive period.
No doubt some of those extra visitors may in previous years have considered a gift-buying shopping spree in New York or a trip over to see a Christmas market in its native setting in Nuremberg or Cologne. Birmingham’s travel agents have seen demand for Christmas shopping trips to the US and the European Christmas markets drop off a cliff this year. But given the pound’s vertiginous descent in recent weeks, with sterling coming ever closer to crossing the important psychological threshold of parity with the euro, the idea of shelling out to travel thousands of miles just to go shopping seems ludicrous.
Of course it wasn’t just the opportunity to buy an iPod at a slightly cheaper rate or a discount deal on a bottle of Jaegermeister that tempted shoppers away from the UK high street – part of the fun was experiencing shopping in a new city.
But visitors to Birmingham city centre are discovering that the Frankfurt Christmas Market brings some of that sense of exploration to Christmas shopping here.
The market also takes in a craft market selling locally-made items with nearly 50 stalls filling Chamberlain Square, and also for the first time on Centenary Way bridge beyond Paradise Forum, supporting craftspeople and keeping money in the region’s economy.
When Mary Portas, aka the BBC’s Mary Queen of Shops, came to Birmingham earlier this year she said: “I would love to see the idea of a world market set up in the city which can really bring together all the cultures that are here in terms of fashion, design and food.”
Birmingham MP for Perry Barr Khalid Mahmood dubbed it a “fantastic idea”.