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Less customers in Grafton Street due to LUAS

This is interesting! I had never thought of this or considered it, but after reading an article in the Irish Times about footfall in Grafton Street, I can see how it might make sense. Dublintown, the trader organisation for the City Centre, have identified that there was a drop in footfall by approx. 5.2% and they think the LUAS is the reason.

At first I thought: NONSENSE! The reduction in customer numbers if probably a general and global trend away from retail shops and towards online shopping. The prices retail shops charge are often to hideously high in comparison to online retailers that it really is difficult to keep shopping in the bricks & mortar shops.

But then I thought about how I would use the LUAS (if I could from where I live). If you come from the southern part of Dublin on the Green LUAS line and you work on the North side of the Liffey, then before the Cross City Luas was there, you would have left the LUAS at St. Stephen’s Green and then you would have had to walk from St. Stephen’s Green through Grafton Street to cross the Liffey to get to the Northside. Now, since the Cross City Luas is there, you change Luas trains at St. Stephen’s Green and then go across to the Northside in Luas, without ever putting a foot into Grafton Street.

Not much that can be done about it, but interesting how this new LUAS connection hurts businesses directly but very unintentionally. :-O

Bad News for the College Green Plaza

Dublin City had planned to pedestrianise the College Green area from the TCD front to approx. where H&M and Starbucks are and turn this new City Centre Plaza into a public amenity. (An article is here.) It would have been the first and only City Centre event space and in my opinion it is the perfect location for a PROPER Christmas Market in Dublin.

But the planning authority, An Bord Pleanala, was not in favour of it because it would have a negative effect on traffic and would cause unacceptable conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians.

At the moment College Green can only be used by buses and taxis and getting taxis out of this area would – in my opinion – be a good thing.

By the way: The only chance a Christmas Market has in Dublin if it a) is in a central location and b) is organised and run by Dublin City, NOT an event management company and definitely not by DublinTown.

The next steps that Dublin City will take regarding this, have not been revealed yet.

“Dublin One” – INCREASING the North-South Divide

The Independent.ie reported on Friday that Dublin has a new “district” and it surprised and puzzled me. I thought one of the fringe areas on the outer commuter belt might have got a new name, but, NO, they were writing about the “new district” called “Dublin One”. What?? A new district? Sounds like a whole pile of bullsh*t….and so it is!

Nearly a year ago, in January 2016, the Dublin Northside Attraction Alliance was founded and it seems that they have done close to nothing for the whole year. They started very confused when they included the Guinness Storehouse in the Northside list of attractions. (You better claim the biggest visitor magnet in Dublin for the Northside even if it is firmly on the Southside!) A website is up but not much else seemed to have happened.

And when you think about it, it does absolutely not make sense to create a deeper divide than there is already. By creating an artificial separation between Northside Attractions and other attractions (there is no “Southside Attractions Alliance”), you don’t market the Northside better, but you fragment our quite small city more and create unnecessary confusion in tourists.

The right thing would be to market DUBLIN (as a whole) and ignore that there is a river separating North and South. So it was an ill-advised initiative to create the Northside Attraction Alliance, but instead of seeing that it failed, now they plan to make it worse:

Last week Dublintown, the trader’s organisation for Dublin, launched “Dublin One”, a new “brand” to promote the area west of O’Connell Street to Capel Street and Parnell Square to the quays. Dublin 1 is already a postal district and doesn’t require any brand. So why a new “brand” was created for a fraction of Dublin 1 is a mystery. Oddly O’Connell Street seems to be EXcluded from the Dublintown district “Dublin One”, it only starts “west of O’Connell Street” according to the website.

Irish Independent journalist Pól Ó Conghaile suggests in his article that it is a great idea. But to subdivide Dublin further instead of pulling together and to promote based on merit and quality rather than on location can’t be a great idea. He mentions some of the highlights on the Northside and while he doesn’t claim it, it could appear that he implies that they are all in “Dublin One”, but they aren’t! Many of the sites he mentions are in Dublin 7 (e.g. K Chido Mexico, Old Jameson Distillery, the old Victorian Fruit & Veg Market).

No, Dublintown, “Dublin One” that only covers part of Dublin 1 and that is intended to discriminate some areas by elevating one small part of Dublin doesn’t make sense! It’s just odd!

No Outdoor Christmas Market in Dublin? What’s going on?

I am VERY passionate about Christmas Markets and if you are a Dublin Event Guide Reader for a while, you probably know that already. I can absolutely not get it why Dublin is incapable of having a good Christmas Market and interestingly, it seems that Galway, Cork, Waterford and Belfast ARE able to have a market that people like and that reliably happens year after year.

This year, there will not be an outdoor Christmas Market at all in Dublin and that is frankly just not good enough for a City that is quite dependent on tourism. I wrote a long piece about the failed St. Stephen’s Green Market in 2014 and about the “I believe in Christmas” market in 2015, that decided the “I believe” part of the name should be trademarked and that called itself “Christmas Tree & Village” not Christmas Market here: www.joergsteegmueller.com/2015/12/08/ireland-and-christmas-markets-it-cant-be-that-difficult/

Both markets were designed by Event Management people, NOT by Christmas Market experts and both markets didn’t deliver. After just one year the “I believe” market is gone again with the result that in 2016, Dublin has NO Christmas Market. Yes, there are some weekend markets with a Christmas theme, but this is not what tourists are interested in and it really isn’t good enough for us living in Dublin either.

So why are they failing? Because the focus is wrong, the location is wrong, food and drink doesn’t get enough attention and they are every time run by the wrong entity/organisation.

1) Focus: The outdoor markets in Dublin have never focused on the visitors, they always seem to focus in maximising the money taken as fees from the traders. This means that there is no proper product selection, but you sometimes find the weirdest “non-Christmas Market-worthy” products at stalls.

2) Location: George’s Dock is a nice venue, but for a Christmas Market it is too far out. It has to be in easy walking distance from the City Centre so that people can drop in and out during their shopping and then finish the day with good food and drink at the market. Dublin has a problem because there is no place in the City Centre. But you need a square or plaza of some sort to build a Christmas village. A long row of stalls (like at St. Stephen’s Green) will NEVER create the atmosphere that is needed.
There are in my opinion two suitable locations already in the City Centre, but only one of them might get the ok from the responsible authorities. In future I see one other area that could be suitable, but it will take a few years until it is available.

3) Food and Drink: It is soooo important to have good food and at least Gluehwein at a Christmas Market. At St. Stephen’s Green, Dublintown screwed up by giving the contract to run 2 or three food outlets to ONE Catering Company. Boring delivery, no variation and no competition. The food and drink offering was totally underwhelming. At some of my favourite markets, I would say at least 50% of the stalls are food and drink stalls. Alcoholic Gluehwein, but also non-alcoholic Glueh”wein” are sold and the food variety is vast. Result: People stay there until late and have their dinner at the market and meet with their friends for an evening out.

4) Organisation in charge: In Dublin it seems that every time the task to run a market is completely handed over to an event management company and the real organiser is getting out of the way. The result is that it is run exactly as any other event, not as an experience or something somebody is passionate about. In all towns I know, the Christmas Market is run by the Town/City Council who have passionate employees working on it really hard. In Dublin, Dublin City Council couldn’t care less about a Christmas Market in Dublin and IF they did care, they would just get an event management company again and not be involved themselves. The passing of responsibility to people that don’t care about this event more than the next 25 that they have to manage has to stop. Dublin Tourism or the Events section in Dublin City Council should run it with the explicit intention to make it an amazing experience for the visitors AND to run it from now for at least 10 years EVERY year not primarily to make money, but because a capital of a European city is expected to have a good quality market in the pre-Christmas period.

There are a few other little bits that are mentioned in the post that I linked to above, but if these few points get the right attention, we could have a great Christmas Market for the long term future. Without giving attention to them, we will have one failure after the next, like we did for the last 5 or so years.

Did I mention that I am very passionate about Christmas Markets? Now you see! ;-)

P.S. I just found what must be one of the most delusional quote of the season, considering the poor show of Dublin: DublinTown CEO Richard Guiney said: “I can’t think of anywhere that does Christmas as well as Dublin.”

Ireland and Christmas Markets – It can’t be THAT difficult!

In Germany and Austria and a number of other European countries nearly every little village has some sort of Christmas market and if the place has more than maybe 40k inhabitants, then they often have a very impressive market. And oddly the Christmas Market in a 40,000 people city is MUCH better than any markets in the 1.5 mio city of Dublin. So what is the problem? Why can’t anybody get it hacked in Ireland despite years of trying and trying?

I have my own theories and they might be wrong, but what do you think about this:

I get the impression that in Germany and Austria etc the markets are firstly for the visitors, secondly for the traders and only in third place are the organiser’s interest. This probably has to do with the fact that it is usually not an Event Management organisation that is in charge of the market on the continent. In Ireland it is different: The first priority seems to be given to the organiser. Then they will consider briefly the traders but would love to get rid of them and only in third place ranks the audience, the customers.

But Christmas Markets are not and should not seen as a get-rich-quick scheme for organiser. Only when that changes we have a chance to see a proper Christmas Market.

There are a few unfixable problems:

Food and Gluehwein will never be as low priced as outside of Ireland. A cup of Gluehwein seemed outrageously priced at EUR 6 and it is! In Lidl you can get a litre of Gluehwein for that price. But listen to that: In Germany you pay for the same cup ONLY around EUR 2.50, BUT the bottle in Lidl is only EUR 1.50. So if we compare the price per cup with the price of the bottle then we don’t do horribly bad here. Why is the bottle so expensive here? Mainly taxes!! Thanks, deas government for even ruining our Gluehwein addiction. ;-)

And another problem: There seems to be a serious shortage of high quality craft traders in Ireland. At least of Christmas compatible and “sellable” craft!

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But, I hear you saying, are the Christmas markets here really that bad?

About 10 years ago the first market appeared at George’s Dock. At the time a German company was hired to run it and they did a reasonably well job, but it was a new concept and visitors were not as plentiful as they should. After about 5 years (and I am probably not 100% correct with my timings) they were not hired again. Instead an Irish company event management company thought they could do a better job and things started going downhill: The white plastic tents were introduced. They create as much Christmas atmosphere as a Tupperware bowl. That Irish company tried for 2 years and failed. Then another Irish Event Management company got involved and just lasted one year and then there was no market last year at George’s Dock.

That’s when the era of the City Centre Christmas market began! The era lasted one year and was a disaster. In principle it was a very good idea to move the market away from the far-out-the-city IFSC to the centre. But squeezed on the footpath next to Stephen’s Green was a totally wrong place for it. Stephen’s Green would be super, but here shows up another problem: We have NO single suitable space in the City Centre of Dublin that would allow the set up of a Christmas Market Village (not just a string of stalls). Smithfield or the Point Village would be suitable regarding the space, but the location is totally unsuitable.

What else went wrong last year? Well, Christmas Markets need to have a VERY strong food and drink (at least Gluehwein) component to keep people there for a while. Only if people stay there you create atmosphere and you get others to meet them there. But Dublintown (the organisers of last year’s market) decided in their wisdom to give the “catering contract” (totally wrong approach!!) to one single company. So no competition, no variety, no excitement about the food. In addition, Dublintown was worried that the restaurants and traders in the city (who they represent) would suffer from having a too strong food and drink component. And finally: They thought more about marketing the Christmas Market than making it good!

Which brings is to the “I believe (TM) Christmas Tree & Village”. WHAT? Who in their right mind thinks first about trademarking the name of a Christmas Market (on top of that this name “I believe” is totally nonsensical!) and why is it not called Christmas Market, but “Christmas Tree & Village”? So the tree is more relevant than the village? And the village is not really a market? And the “I believe” part is trademarked? Seems like a PR agency ran riot!

The right approach? Create a deadly Christmas Market and you won’t need a fancy or even trademarked name because it speaks for itself! The Nuremberg Christmas Market as one of the most famous and best known in the world, is called “Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt” (Christchild Market). Nothing fancy, no trademark. No silly PR or marketing. It is an amazing market that speaks for itself WORLDWIDE!

More nonsensical claims at the I believe market? Sure!! What about the “Rockefeller-style” Christmas tree? What is “Rockefeller-style” about the tree? The tree is about half as high as the one at the Rockefeller Centre in New York and the lights in Dublin are as boring as hell. NOTHING that even comes close to the magical Rockefeller Centre tree. Empty promises! Like the claim about the importance this market will have in Europe within 5 years. The claim is that it will be one of the top markets in Europe within 5 years. Why does that matter? By the way: It will have NO importance in the international context and it is not relevant either. If they had focused on doing the best possible Christmas Market instead, it would be a success. But that was seemingly forgotten.

I could go on about the outrageously Après Ski table rent and the continued failure to include the CHQ building more, but I want to mention some of the good things before I will take a chill pill (You might have gathered that I am very passionate about Christmas Markets. Maybe I should offer my services as a Christmas Market consultant? ;-) )

There are definitely some good sides about the Dublin Docklands Christmas Market (trademark whatever you want of this):

For the first time the trader selection seems to be well thought out and comes close to what a Christmas Market should be. The layout of the platform in George’s Dock is good and if the white plastic tents were replaced with proper wooden huts (and there are right and wrong ones!!) it would come closer and closer to a good Christmas Market. More traders are needed and some Christmas music would help, but the decoration is quite pretty.

Sure the food trader (again seemingly in one hand) situation has to get sorted as well, competition and more variety is needed, also for the Gluehwein, but that is a relatively simple change. The opening hours are good and the entertainment programme that was originally promised seemed good as well, unfortunately though, I haven’t found a website where this programme of live entertainment has been listed for people to see. With such a marketing focus event this is a big oversight.

Is the “I believe” Market salvageable? Yes! Fire the marketing company and involve people that have been at least ONCE at a European Christmasmarket and it could be really good in about 3-4 years. However, because the NO 1 interest is still the organiser, I have doubts that it will make enough money to keep them interested that long.

If you read till here: WOW! ;-) This concludes my rant and if you want to share your opinion with me, send it to dublineventguide@gmail.com

 
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