Royal Welsh Winter Fair

27 Nov

Regular readers will know that the RWAS, whatever the time of year, is not one of my favourite events. I think it starts with the terse welcome, whereas I want the person who takes my ticket to at least start my day pleasantly with a ‘good morning’………… Of course it’s boring for them to do that, but in fairness they are not having to do it 24/7 – just make an effort; I give extra points for smiles too!!

Anyway never mind, we have to be there and determined only to visit for one day, we had a lot of work to get through. Despite a car pass we saw no signs of where we had to park, so went in as normal and stopped a yellow jacket person who was wandering around and queried did he want us to park anywhere? To be told yes!!!

The Press Office was our first point of call so we headed in that direction and were amazed by the number of ‘stands’ and I use that term loosely, were not set up, in fact one was totally empty. But back to the Press Office and when we tried to sign in at 7.40, the door was locked and we waited – impatiently for a RWAS representative to arrive. I’ve never understand why the Smallholder and Winter Fair never feel that it warrants a Press Office being manned by the RWAS, but it does show how little RWAS think of the press and feel they all have more pressing jobs to do. Anyway we did get signed in but I could only find one press release. Normally Press Offices are inundated with press releases but not at RWAS.

The Food Hall was our next stop and I’d struggled to find much on RWAS website about the Food Hall, 2 images and 75 words, which I’ve shown in full for you, but no list of producers.

Food Hall

The quality and distinctiveness of Welsh food has earned a well-established reputation for excellence, distinction and flavour. The Food Hall exhibitors will again include Award Winning Producers in 2012 …a visit is a must, with the finest Welsh produce on show and for sale, offering many unique Christmas gift ideas …with a special Welsh flavour. Give your taste buds a treat, and sample the mouthwatering range of foods before filling the shopping bags!

It annoys me intensely that this Food Hall, which has cost upwards of £1.6m, still warrants little or no promotion and marketing from either the RWAS or wag. Now I don’t care a toss which of these two is responsible for the Food Hall as long as someone is and they do some basic promotion and marketing. Why are these basic jobs ignored?

When Elin Jones officially opened the Food Hall in 2010, she announced a new deal between wag and the RWAS to manage the £1.6m food hall. The financial support for the Food Hall amounts to nearly £300,000 over the next three years. At the time I did double-check with the Wag press office and was told that the RWAS will be paid 100k per year to run wag’s two events, the RWAS and the Winter Fair. I thought wag paid RWAS £50k for the old food hall, so aren’t RWAS lucky to be able to double its income when even in 2010 budgets were being slashed?

Maybe some of you will disagree with me but it is always interesting to get your comments and feedback, but I will never accept the way producers are treated so badly, or actually just ignored by RWAS. Our producers pay large fees for their stands, but then get so little back-up in terms of basic publicity from the RWAS or wag. We had to ring Fernleigh Designs, who run this event for wag, to find out which stall holders were in the Food Hall, but I’m still astonished why no-one thinks it is important that this information is put up on the RWAS website. I surely can’t be the only person who has an interest as to which producers were attending. I last checked the website on Tuesday and I couldn’t find any listing for food producers. I’ve blogged endlessly about this expensive Food Hall and I’m still taken aback when I was told an ‘expert’ designed this building!

Ian and I split up and covered the Food Hall and we both enjoyed managing to catch up with those producers who had time for a chat and gossip, whilst they were waiting for the influx of customers. Sadly we had food producers who hadn’t finished setting up at 8.15, which was rather disappointing. However I was so pleased that many producers, including lots of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, had made a real effort to get into the Christmas theme. Most stands looked wonderful, impressing me with the range of Christmas packs and gift ideas they had on offer and I did wonder if there was a prize in the Food Hall for the best Christmas stand. I was delighted to see how some producers had worked with each other traders on their gift packs and hampers and how many producers are now really into mail order. It would be too much to hope that Ian and I didn’t find any stands that didn’t have business cards or leaflets. How traders can attend any event and not have something for punters to take away really upsets me and certainly can’t help the traders. It’s simply not professional and not acceptable.

There were two very small areas in the Food Hall, in what I’d call dead space, very close to the loos, that had a few tables and chairs but I am talking a few. So many people wanting to take a break in the Food Hall, have a coffee, cake or lunch but there is nowhere in the pricey building that really caters for them. If you have children of elderly relatives with them, basically don’t expect the Food Hall to give you any respite. The huge middle area was left empty apart from three Christmas trees which could easily have been set up in the corners or in the entrance area. But we can’t risk holding our breath and expect wag or the RWAS to think about the poor punters or how to help the traders to sell more.

One of my many moans about RWAS Food Hall is how expensive the stands are. Too many producers have to make the decision to take a gamble, or play safe and not to attend. In July there’s the option for producers to take stand in the Farmers’ Market which has in the past been run by Steve Shearman. The market is something we have always supported and we were pleased to learn that this was happening for the Winter Fair, not run by Steve, but run by Food Centre Wales, Horeb, (FCW) with the ‘Gate To Plate’ Exhibition and held in the Members’ Centre.

I received a press release from Ceredigion County Council telling me about FCW’s involvement at the Winter Fair, but this was an interesting part of it:

There will also be a Christmas Farmers’ Market featuring food producers from Ceredigion. The Farmers’ Market will be situated on the patio area outside the Members’ building and at the entrance to the Fair.

I was surprised to read that is would be Ceredigion producers as according to the list of producers I asked for and received, I knew stands were from Powys, Pembrokeshire and southWales. So that didn’t make sense to me at all.

However the market stands were priced at a reasonable £50.00 per day which is reasonable, bearing in mind standard food markets fees are around £30 – £45 per day, there was a further £1.00 charged for an extra table, but not sure under the market stands, if this would be easy to sort out. But again I struggled to find anything on the RWAS website, and the information about tradestands was available seemed to be 2011 information, which doesn’t make sense and is very unfair, not only for the producers who are paying their hard-earned cash to attend, but for potential visitors who might web-browse before the visit. I’m really not sure how I can hammer this point home any harder, but I do realise that I’m trying to get through, by and large to people who get paid at the end each month, every month! I’m back once again to basic promotion and marketing. It’s something that I find is not done very well, not just by RWAS, but generally here inWalesin too many sectors.

Anyway back to the market. My first worry was the lack of any sign if you came up from the main car-park. It worked fine for members as the came through a gate and were then into the Members Centre. So here I go again, promise for the last time, this is basic marketing or rather it is a lack of it. The stands ran in two rows, one directly in front of and facing the Members Centre and the other running behind. I’d rather there was a better way of siting stands as you are asking people to walk down a length of tradestands and then turn round and walk back the same way, ideally these areas work better if people traffic can flow. For me I also think that separating the produce a little better is worth a thought too, two cheese producers in three stands is too close I think if it’s possible to mix them up a little more. One stand did say they’d like more space so perhaps the extra table offer could be made clearer if this is a regular event. I’m all for this opportunity for our producers to get a pitch at the RWAS and of course improvements can always be made but it is vital that markets are not only allowed at the RWAS, but encouraged and supported too.

I really do hope that this happens again next year with improved marketing and signage.

I couldn’t resist going into the members but wished I hadn’t succumbed to going upstairs to the seating area. Ian ordered two mochas and then reeled when he was charged £3.20 EACH. It was an issue getting a receipt, but perhaps farmers don’t bother nowadays. We still haven’t recovered from that rip off and wished we’d have returned to the Food Hall and gone to Ferraris whose mochas were £2.20 each!!!

We went back to the Press Room about 12.30 to find no coffee and cold stewed tea but as there weren’t any clean cups either it didn’t really matter. Checked the press releases situation and found about 5 – this is the RWAS Winter Fair but it appears that it is best if the press aren’t told too much of what is happening.

Our final stop at the Food Hall gave us mixed reports on the trade. Some had done exceedingly well whilst others were very disappointed. I know some traders hadn’t got their same spot this year and had no idea why they’d been moved, but can’t this be addressed on the application form?

I’m still waiting to hear from Fernleigh Designs to confirm tradestand prices in Food Hall.

I’ve still not had a reply to my email to Fernleigh Designs asking for prices but thanks to ‘Disappointed Trader’ who has kindly left Food Hall prices for me/us.

3.0m x 2.0m single-fronted stand (open on front only). £455.00 + VAT = £ 546.00 3.0m x 2.0m corner stand (open on two sides).             £505.00 + VAT = £ 606.00

I agree totally about high stand prices. High footfall at this event doesn’t guarantee high sales in the Food Hall, bearing in mind too how many people and children use the Hall just to take samples!

I’m really sorry you knew nothing about Farmers’ Market, we didn’t hear about it until very late and sent it around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers as soon as we knew there was still space and the price that was being charged.

If it runs next year – hopefully they’ll tell us early so we can send details to our BOW.

It is vital that Farmers’ Markets are run at all three of the RWAS  shows, but it is unfair, if it is correct that the Food Hall is subsidised by wag, that the market isn’t. It also doesn’t make sense to me why there weren’t large signs at both the Food Hall and the Market telling people where the other food stalls were. Basic marketing is again missing  – but as the people responsible are no doubt paid regularly each month………………………maybe that explains it!

I am sure you are as bored of reading about my same old moans, as I am about writing about them. But how do we get things changed, altered, improved? Or preferably all three? It is sad that some organisers can’t work out that if they wish to get things right for traders, that they actually talk and get advice from some of the professionals on the circuit…………………….???????


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  1. producer

    November 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I visited on Monday. I couldn’t afford food hall but had no idea about the market which was annoying

    I agree with you about how the market was laid out. It’s important that people can walk around and not up and down it must flow. The market was much needed you are right there too. If the layout can be improved and
    some decent signage I’d certainly go next year.
    as for rwas website that is such a waste – it’s so useless and producers do need much better promotion.

  2. Disappointed Trader

    November 29, 2012 at 1:59 am

    I wish I had known about the farmers market as well as I would have liked to attend. Cetainly couldn’t afford the usual inflated prices that are charged for the food hall at the summer and winter fairs. Smallholders show (or is it the Spring fair now?) is affordable however.

    FYI, the costs asked by Fernleigh for the show – copied from my application form – are :

    3.0m x 2.0m single-fronted stand (open on front only). £455.00 + VAT = £ 546.00
    3.0m x 2.0m corner stand (open on two sides). £505.00 + VAT = £ 606.00

    More than twice as much as the next most expensive show we attend. How can producers afford to pay these prices if you only take £1 profit at most on a sale? Ok, the footfall may be high, but that doesn’t means your sales will.

  3. trader too

    November 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    How did traders learn about this market? According your report and what you were told by Ceredigion it was for their producers only, but it wasn’t was it? Obviously I guess all Ceredigion farmers’ market guys would have been there, but what about the rest of us?
    How were traders from Powys etc. told about it?
    It doesn’t seem fair
    I’d love to know how Horeb let traders know about it

  4. cheese man

    December 3, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    the food hall prices are obviously set by one of the mass of civil servants who get well paid at the end of each month.
    I’m fed up of hearing how busy the food hall can be. That does not guarantee that all traders will make serious money, bearing in mind how many samples are eaten by people and families who have no intention of buying from you.
    The new food hall is not an attractive building, and has been said so often on here, there’s no encouragement for people to buy, sit eat and drink. I’d have thought that was what a food hall was for. Where are the tables to allow people to spend quality time in there?
    The farmers market was badly laid out and had few signs telling people where it was. You can’t be sure visitors will just walk towards a row of tents that they haven’t seen before. Why should they on such cold days?
    I’d have risked a stand there if I’d have known about it, but the Ceredigion lot did a lousy job of telling traders it was happening – seemed to me they focused on their own market people and others found out by default.

  5. Producer2

    December 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    The Farmers Market was an experiment, to try and get people into the Members Centre. It is basic, but if you want to get people to go somewhere, you have to advertise! This was not done, and the sign at the entrance saying Members Only was putting people off too. This just shows those who put this market together have never actually run a business where the bottom line is will you make a profit?
    The second day was better, mainly because the market had been shown on TV and some signs were hastily put up!
    How can you sell if you have no customers? How to get customers? Tell them you are there and what you have to sell…..not rocket science, is it?

  6. Producer 2

    December 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    great idea to have a market but this was let down by poor promotion unless you attend Aber market, and poor marketing from organisers
    of course good signage was needed, but it wasn’t there on the Monday and had improved a little on Tuesday as traders moaned.
    It’s not good enough to take traders’ money and then not put the effort in to make their days work for them.
    they need punters and it’s your job to do that part.

  7. trader

    December 13, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I agree with comments left.
    I didn’t take a stand at food hall as I had my mortgage to pay, and didn’t take a stand at market as I knew nothing about it.
    This site has gone on and on and on and on about how poor or non-existant promotion and marketing is in welsh food and that includes festivals and markets, but nobody in power in wag seems to understand what promotion and marketing mean, although Kath in my opinion makes it quite clear.
    There’s much on here about HCC not supporting butchers, this has always been the case it is still wrong but maybe they are just following wag food’s poor example.
    We’ve a new person in food and can only hope things will improved but seeing the market as a punter I’m not hopeful.