NBG Christmas Fair

17 Dec

I heard on Friday 14th December that there was a Christmas food fair at the National Botanical Gardens, NBG. So I went onto their website to see which producers were attending. There was, needless to say no producer list on their website so I emailed them asking for a list to be sent through to me. I still wait for a reply, but thankfully I didn’t hold my breath.

According to their website this was NBG’s popular Christmas Food Fair being held on December 15 & 16 as a celebration of local food and drink. This will certainly be the last time I will say this, this year, if only I could promise you it will be the last time I have to mention it again, but……… I doubt it. Why are food events run by the NBG not publicised better? Why are people expected to pay £8.50 to get into the gardens if they only wish to visit the food fair? In the great scheme of things who in their right mind would pay £8.50 to visit any food fair? I’m obviously not the only one in Christmas Scrooge mode judging by the lack of punters attending.

I did take the gamble and visit on the Sunday, but so wish I hadn’t bothered. In fairness as I drove there, the weather was horrendous, with driving rain that lasted for ages and certainly wouldn’t really encourage many to venture out. But I have a massive issue with any food organiser running with an entry charge. I got caught up in this very issue at Narbeth last year when two people were objecting to having to pay to go in with the lady saying she didn’t have to pay to go into Tesco and as she only wanted to buy food why should her and her husband have to pay for Narbeth. I though her question was fair question, but she didn’t get an acceptable answer and voted with her feet and went shopping elsewhere. Her decision didn’t make the slightest difference to the volunteers on the gate but it did make a difference to the traders. That couple might only have spent £10 – £20 but that was much needed income – lost. I related this tale yesterday to a trader and was amazed to be told, well let them go to Tesco!!! If only all of us involved in the Welsh food industry were on the same page. For a trader so say that even left me speechless, which is a rarity, I know.

Another trader told me that as its accountants running NBG, it’s them stating that their entrance charge is held for a food event. The traders charge of £30 for the weekend was reasonable, no problem from me there. But as I talked to more traders – and they all had plenty of time to talk to me – the consensus was that as they all had a busy week coming up, their time would have been used better back at home as they simply hadn’t enough people to even try and sell to and that doesn’t take into account the struggling economy and that people haven’t as much money to spend even on food.

Of course this isn’t a Wag funded event and NBG can and will make  whatever decisions they think best – I’d be surprised if anyone working there had ever worked as a food producer, or even run a tradestand for a living, because if they had they understand the basic that people are needed for the traders to sell to, the stands would be laid out in a sensible order so that customer traffic actually flows. However at the end of the day is really is down to the traders. All they need to do is ask all food organisers before they book a stand, what promotion and marketing they are doing for their event. Then if you are not convinced, don’t go.

I felt so sorry for those traders, plus we had a few of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers there, who by and large had had a lousy weekend and no more so than those who had fresh product to sell. Thank goodness the traders that were at Caerphilly the week before had a very successful event. In fact I haven’t heard one bad word about that Christmas festival.

One parting word from one trader as I left yesterday really made me laugh, she politely ticked me off for not sending her the wag food festival list for 2013, yes 2013, goodness me, it must have taken me 4 months to get this year’s list. Never mind I did leave the Glass House with a smile on my face after all the grumbles I’d listened to…….


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  1. trader

    December 18, 2012 at 11:14 am

    A few years back food events at NBG were organised by a professional food producer. They were well organsied, well laid out and we made money. No idea why that arrangement changed, but now NBG are doing it themselves, badly – as explained in this report. It is really a waste of time for traders.
    Some traders feel they should support NBG because they are local to it, but why can’t NBG organise something that is quite simple? They can’t even get people in to shop with their money grabbing entrance fee. NBG aren’t supporting traders and that is clear to see.

  2. Disappointed Trader

    December 19, 2012 at 12:10 am

    So sad to hear the same old comments about an event held at NBG yet again. It used to be a good event – I attended ALL their events for the last six years – but they have slowly gone downhill. Didn’t bother this year as last year wasn’t good, relieved I made the right decision, but I was still disappointed to have to drop out as I am local to the gardens and I regard them as an excellent asset to Wales which needs supporting.

    Why can’t they do halfprice or free admission to their food festivals? They must make enough from traders payments to cover the loss of entry fees. Surely NBG must realise that someone who comes in for free for a food festival might be a return paying customer in the future, rather than a disappointed customer who won’t pay to come in as they only wanted to go to the festival.

    I wouldn’t pay to attend just the food festival, why should anyone else?

    Very frustrating that these venues won’t learn. We need them so we can sell our products, but if we can’t make any money then we can’t keep attending. Eventually no more shows!! Someone tell NBG to read this blog!

  3. admin

    December 19, 2012 at 10:30 am

    NBG read this, sadly I very much doubt it.
    I have been to quite a few events held there over the years and totally agree that since NBG decided to run the food events themselves, they have generally not been very good at all. Traders like you have supported their food events because they are local, but we all know that that doesn’t pay your bills.

    Every time I have attended an event at NBG I have been saying the same things, time and time again. I’m not sure that NBG are even aware of welshfoodbites – so read it and act on it I think we are expecting far too much there. NBG are aware of Welsh Country magazine though as I do get the odd press release from them, but unless they are advertising with us I can’t be much help to them.

    I was told on Sunday, by a trader, that accountants run NBG. The accountants are bothered about how many people are coming through their door, rather than be concerned whether the food event was successful for the traders. As I said in my report, the stand fees weren’t high, but the people weren’t there to sell to. I have no idea at all how this event was advertised, whether NBG used local paper or local radio, or actually did anything at all. I do know NBG didn’t advertise it with us, but as NBG never advertise anything with us, then we haven’t lost anything there and that is not the issue. The point I keep making and I must admit to boring myself, let alone anyone else, is that food events must be promoted and advertised – traders can’t make a living if they have no-one to sell to, it’s that simple. It was especially sad to hear the stands with fresh produce were going to have to bin much of it – how heartbreaking is that?

    I’m so discouraged with going over the same old ground whilst no-one in authority can be bothered to make any drastic changes, well actually any changes for the better. You would have thought as the recession began, wag in particular would look to make sure that festivals and markets had action plans to make sure they got the footfall that the traders need. But instead, when they have handed over our money, they sit in their warm, comfy offices and do whatever is judged as a priority, but which is not looking after the micro producers, that’s for sure.

    After my latest sound-off, let me finish with some good feedback apart from Caerphilly which I’ve already mentioned in this post. Mumbles Xmas market, another I attended on Saturday 8th December and had great feedback from a fair number of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, one even saying it was the best event for them this year!!!! I’ve been a great supporter of Mumbles Local Produce market over the years, I prefer the concept of a local market rather than a farmers’ market and was upset to learn that Mumbles had had a bit of a blip tradewise for some, but I was impressed to see lots of people shopping and traders too busy to talk to me – that’s a success!!!!!

  4. cheesed off trader

    December 19, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    This is another event I’ve knocked on the head
    I too wish NBG would read this site because they’ve certainly featured on it enough.
    The events there used to be worthwhile going to when a professional producer was organising them, since he left they’ve been pretty poor.
    I’m relieved I didn’t go last weekend. I’m local and I’ve tried to support them, but I have to make money. I need customers to sell to and NBG are failing to bring them in and it has to be because of their massive entry fee and poor marketing as well.
    Get professionals in, or at least take professional advice. Otherwise don’t bother with food events because you are not helping producers at all.
    If more traders say the same thing or stay away then perhaps the accountants will understand.