I didn’t get much chance to look at the market on Sunday but it had to be better than Saturday’s. The first problem with the Saturday markets held in August which I’m reliably informed are a “tradition” is that they are too big. We need people IN the Grassmarket and the stalls take up so much space there is very little space left for people so much so that it is a tight squeeze just to walk between the seating outside the cafes and restaurants and the first wave of junk stalls. The second problem is that most of the stalls are “a bit shit”. Now everybody seems to know this but nobody wants to offend the organisers. OK “a bit shit” isn’t tactful but others with more time to be tactful could explain it would need to get better just to come up to a car boot sale standard. Shops and cafes/restaurants in the Grassmarket pay a huge amount of rent and rates to be there and can not afford to have some of the best Saturdays of the year ruined in this way.
Which brings me to the next problem. Grassmarket traders pay to be there all year and then just when business is looking up competition sets up outside your door. Whether that be vintage clothing stalls outside Armstrongs, record stalls outside Avalanche, juice bars outside Hula or as Bill the owner of the joke shop was telling me even a board of jokes on a stall outside the joke shop. In better economic times it would be an annoyance but now it is taking away crucial business at a time when more and more it is the weekends when most of the takings are made.
None of these stalls bring people to the Grassmarket but instead rely on those who will already be there. Believe me I have looked extensively online and promotion of these markets and stalls is minimal. While the latest market was “last minute” in these days of instant social media even that isn’t too late to promote.
Of course something like a farmers market or arts market (not a craft fair) will if regular and well promoted bring people to the Grassmarket though even the latter might impinge on those already in the Grassmarket and I would understand if on balance others felt that affected their business. I did see on Sunday a big fruit (and veg ?) stall that looked great and I will certainly be supporting that this week. It is exactly the sort of stall that we need.
So if you see stalls in the Grassmarket remember that it is the shops that are there all year and support them wherever possible as a first choice. If you see that record you’ve been looking for or the perfect vintage dress on a stall then of course it is only sensible to buy it but if you need a glass of juice go to Hula and if you need a piece of plastic that looks like a dog shit go to the joke shop.
I am of course speaking for myself here and not directly on behalf of any other Grassmarket traders.