Christmas marketMalte Christians

Two genteel towns, renowned for their beauty and history, have broken out into a public spat - over their respective Christmas markets. Salisbury and Winchester, just 30 miles apart, are engaged in a desperate battle for shoppers.

So what's going on, and why are they so worried?



The spat

According to the Telegraph, it started when a billboard went up in Salisbury, Wiltshire, advertising the Christmas market in Winchester, Hants. It called Winchester "England's Christmas Capital" - and traders in Salisbury started to grow concerned that they could lose trade to a nearby rival. They responded with a poster near Winchester's railway station.

But why are they so concerned?

Christmas markets are big business. Winchester attracts around 400,000 people a year, who spend £1.5 million year.

And it's not just the markets themselves that prosper. People will travel from nearby towns, and while they are out and about and in a spending mood, local shops and cafes can hope to benefit. Bath Christmas Market, for example, attracts more than 300,000 people. Some 64% come specifically for the event, 88% explore the city shops further, 74% eat while they are there - and in total they spend £6.6m in the local economy.

Tourists

Once a market has developed enough traders, and enough atmosphere, it may then join the coach tour Christmas market circuit, and can expect thousands of visitors from further afield. Cities like Lincoln, Bath and Edinburgh attract trade from across the UK.

Lincoln is the oldest Christmas market in the UK. It has been around for 30 years, and now boasts more than 250 stalls. It attracts over 335,000 visitors to the city, and is so popular it has to bring in a one-way pedestrian system around the city.

At their most extreme, some can get so large, successful, and famous that they develop an international trade - boosting the tourist industry dramatically in a typically difficult time of the year in late November and early December.

Once you realise what is at stake, the furore over a couple of posters starts to make a great deal more sense.