IN A winter of discontent there has been little to cheer for retailers as consumers become more and more reluctant to spend as they have in happier times.

It is a time when the household names of Woolworths and MFI are going to the wall and across the high street prices are being slashed in a bid to squeeze the last few pence from customers’ wallets.

But Birmingham has done its bit for the downtrodden retail sector by bringing record numbers of visitors to the City Centre for the Frankfurt Christmas Market.

Some 2.8 million visitors have enjoyed Gluhwein and bratwurst, taken in the Christmas lights and added that all-important footfall to the city centre shops and stores.

The organisers deserve praise for putting on a show like no other, the biggest German market outside Germany and Austria, and giving people good reason to visit Birmingham at this time of year.

So the decision to replicate its success in the spring or summer is surely to be welcomed.

City leader Mike Whitby is now set on inviting some of Birmingham’s other international twin cities to spread their culture and cuisine in a Victoria Square global market.

His fondness for China is well-known, but there is already a thriving Chinese Quarter. Trade, social and cultural links with the Indian sub-continent are strong, but we have the world famous Balti Triangle.

The reason the Frankfurt market has succeeded is because the Germans have a strong Christmas tradition and there is nothing else like it this side of the English Channel.

So when the officials, retailers and marketing sit down in the New Year to plan the next big market they must ensure it is focussed, as special and as spectacular as the Germans have been.