Owners of a family-run business have expressed anger after they said they were priced out of this year’s Christmas market in Priory Meadow.
Steve and Sarah Masters, who run Strangefruits in Hurst Green, which produces preserves and sauces, have traded at the market for the last four years.
But this year they said they were unable to as the cost to traders at the event rose five-fold to £1,500.
Sarah said: “For the last few years we have traded at the Christmas market in one of the wooden chalets just off Priory Meadow in Station Road. It was well-organised by Rob Woods. But this year the powers that be at Priory Meadow decided to farm it out to a London-based company called Forum Centerspace.
“After contacting the company and expressing our interest in attending again this year, we were informed the cost would be five times the amount from previous years. When asked why there had been such a rise in cost we were told they had been advised to charge this amount.
“After a few telephone conversations with Forum Centerspace, they eventually decided the charge would be dropped to £1,000.
“We called to confirm the deal, only to discover the chalet would be erected at the opposite end of Priory Meadow, outside the empty ex-premises of BHS.
“We were pretty sure erecting the chalet at the ‘dead’ end of the shopping centre would spell minimal footfall. When we asked if it could be moved we were told no. This is our livelihood and we think the whole situation is a disgrace.”
Stacey Bell, manager at Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, said: “We are very sorry Strangefruits was unable to be part of this year’s Christmas market. Our agents worked hard with Strangefruits to try to reach a successful business arrangement for both parties, however sadly it wasn’t possible on this occasion.
“As a keen supporter of independent business, we will continue to work closely with local businesses in order to offer the best possible shopping experience for people. The pricing structure introduced this year was in line with what traders pay at similar markets around the UK, however we understand the increased cost was difficult for some traders to absorb.
“Strangefruits has been a valued trader at the Hastings Christmas market in previous years, and as such, was offered a reduced rate in the hope it would be able to continue to be part of this year’s event.
“It was provided with a cabin close to New Look, Superdrug and Poundland which are all key traders in the town centre, and as with all the cabins, this was close to the Christmas Ice Rink which draws thousands of visitors each year.
“We take on board feedback from Strangefruits, and are sorry a more favourable outcome could not be achieved this year.”
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