Padstow Christmas Festival traders lose £50K in deposits as festive market axed

Inside Padstow Christmas Market last year - part of the now axed festival
Inside Padstow Christmas Market last year - part of the now axed festival -Credit:Lisa Letcher

A devastated business owner estimates an "absolutely crippling" £50,000 worth of deposits have been lost by market traders after the shocking cancellation of Padstow Christmas Festival.

The popular annual celebration, which usually takes place in early December, has been axed for 2024 after 17 years. Traders received an email notifying them of the cancellation on Friday (May 10) with the event organiser citing "escalating costs" and a lack of sponsorships.

Now Tina Evans, who started the event nearly two decades ago, has confirmed those who paid deposits for the Christmas Market would not be getting a penny back. One of the traders told CornwallLive it was "crippling" and they are together seeking legal advice.

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More than 60 traders were believed to have secured places for this year's market, due to take place between December 4 and 8, with a considerable deposit. An initial email informing them about the cancellation failed to address what would happen to any deposits and left them understandably concerned.

They have since been sent an update confirming there is no money to return and as such no deposit refunds would be made. The full email reads: "Sincere apologies for my late response. I am sure you are all in a state of shock for which I apologise and I have been very upset to read a lot of nasty comments. I do understand how you are feeling but I have been totally honest with everyone.

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"Last week with the withdrawal of three sponsors it became very obvious that the festival was not viable. The costs were escalating and with funding diminishing, so to try and protect everyone involved I took the painful decision to cancel. This decision was not taken lightly. I took everything into consideration.

"The festival is a not for profit organisation which has worked well for the past 17 years and for stallholders who have been attending for a good few years you know how successful it has been. It has been no mean feat to be listed among the top Christmas Festivals in the world.

"Your non-refundable deposits, which were part of our signed terms and conditions, set the festival up so I can pay deposits and running costs during the lead up to the event. I could have run on for a couple more months having taken your full payments and then as the large bills came in and sponsorship dropped I would have had to cancel in August. Then everyone would have lost a huge amount of money.

"I did not want that to happen. This is why I cancelled now to protect as many people as I could. I am very, very sorry but there is no money to repay deposits as I have paid out and that money will not come back either.

"As I said before it has been amazing working with you all. You have fantastic products and I know you will all do well going forward and thank you all for your support over the years."

Following the email, one of the traders told CornwallLive: "This is completely unfair to all the traders whom also had to pay 7 per cent more than last year because of the rising costs. Considering Christmas events require deposits 10 to 11 months prior, small businesses suffer huge costs at the beginning of each year.

"However, we all know that come the events, we then make that money back and more. To have lost our deposit (some traders have lost over £1,000 in deposits) is absolutely crippling."

Padstow Christmas Festival
Traders have been told they won't be getting their money back -Credit:Padstow Christmas Festival

They added that several traders are in the process of seeking legal advice as the contracts signed by traders state the deposit is "non refundable" in the event of a trader cancelling. It does not reference what is to happen if the event itself is cancelled by organisers and was also dated 2023, not 2024.

"Whilst visitors will of course be disappointed by the event cancellation, I think it needs to be emphasised just how much this impacts the small, Cornish businesses that trade at this event and have supported it for many years," they added. "For most of us, this is the biggest and best event of the year. We’ve already started creating stock for it which we will now need to sell elsewhere (if possible)."

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CornwallLive has seen several emails sent by would-be traders asking about refunds, saying they simply can't afford to lose that money as a small business. Some only booked and paid deposits to attend the event just weeks ago saying they should have been told about concerns sooner.

Padstow Christmas Festival has been contacted for comment. Sharp's Brewery, which has been sponsoring the event for more than a decade, confirmed it was still onboard to sponsor and support the event as usual this year.

The brewery's events manager, Nick White said: "As a longstanding loyal and primary sponsor we were onboard and excited to support this year’s Padstow Christmas Festival. We're deeply saddened by the decision to cancel it but understand the difficulties facing the event industry and suppliers in the current economic climate. We extend our sympathy to all behind the event who have already worked so hard to try and make it happen and recognise what a difficult decision this must have been to make.

"Taking place just over the water from us in Rock, the fantastic event is so dear to all of us at Sharp's. It brings Padstow's harbourside to life during an otherwise quiet period and the whole town and beyond benefits greatly from the boosted footfall over that weekend. Since its inception, all those years ago, it has almost become synonymous with Padstow, which, come December, is abuzz with celebrity chefs, incredible food and drink and a wonderful festive feeling. We're so proud to have played a part in that for over a decade."