After a varied discussion, meeting chairman Colin Hicks said there were ‘as many opinions on markets as there are people in the room’.
While one attendee reported a boost from the Christmas market adding to the festive atmosphere, another shop holder said it ‘killed’ trade while it was up.
One levy payer said: “It’s a Christmas market that isn’t on at Christmas.
“In the two weeks before Christmas they pack up and the atmosphere that’s built up crashes like that, it’s built up and absolutely lovely and they pack up and go.”
But he was quickly followed by another shop owner at the open meeting who said the market slowed her sales.
“It kills us and then [trade] picks up afterwards,” she said.
“It depends where you are if it’s good for you.”
Mr Hicks offered to set up a meeting for businesses to discuss the licensing for markets in general with Chichester District Council but acknowledged it was going to be difficult to reach a consensus.
He said: “We will have to hold some form of ballot, some form of vote and see which way the business community swing.
“I think atmosphere is a good argument.”
The debate came after business owners were shown footfall figures that showed a drop in visitor numbers just before Christmas, although footfall analyst Sven Latham told the meeting this was more of a national trend.
He said there was a theory that shoppers were buying for Christmas earlier, towards Black Friday, with sales peaking in November and slowing towards Christmas Day as it fell on a Monday.
He said: “Footfall dropping is a matter of fact, the question is how much of that can be buffered by people turning to leisure activities.”
Mr Hicks said the footfall in Chichester had dropped 25 per cent compared to 20 per cent nationally.
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