The last year or so has seen massive changes in daily life for everyone – personally and in business. A core, and very enjoyable, part of Granny Mary’s business is attending farmers’ markets. There’s no greater gauge or guide as to what customers like than seeing what they buy and hearing their comments. We meet some real characters as well.

One of the big ones we go to is the Victorian Matlock – Christmas Market, which runs over three days at the end of November. We’ve had stall there five or six times over the years, though sadly it had to be cancelled in 2020. The market has dozens, over a hundred, stalls. There’s a food section which includes all that specialty type of stuff you expect to see near Christmas like cheeses, honey, wines, puddings and cakes and of course pâtés and the like. There’s also a big section for arts and crafts. It’s a great market and has a real buzz; it’s perfect for that time of year. There’s a real feelgood factor to it all. It’s busy but everyone is upbeat. Sometimes it’s so busy the queue for our stall winds in front of other traders.

In the food industry we start talking about Christmas in June – that’s when buyers are starting to decide what they’re doing in their stores with Christmas lines. That’s when we start thinking about Matlock and whether we can sell more and see more customers than the previous year. We use it as a benchmark for the business.

We do a lot of bulk sales at Matlock – people walk away with five, ten or even more pots of pâté or potted meats. We sell hundreds each day. It’s become a kind of internal competition – beating the previous year’s figures. This led to a bit of problem last time in 2019 – a good problem though. Because most of our transactions are relatively small compared to some businesses, we ended up with all this cash – mainly smaller denominations like fivers or two and one-pound coins and the like. Our cash tin overflowed, and our pockets were weighed down, so we ended up with Alistair, our MD’s father, picking up money every few hours.

It’s a great event with constant traffic. We get a lot of people coming up to the Granny Mary’s stand saying, “I’ve come from Manchester,” or Harrogate or Belper or wherever… “just for this”. It’s great to hear customers tell you that. We work hard all year and to know that there’s an event like the Victorian Matlock – Christmas Market to look forward to just before Christmas makes all the difference. It’s always been good financially for us, but more importantly the familiar faces we see and positive comments we get.

Fingers crossed and all things being well we’ll be back at a thriving Matlock Christmas market in November. It really is one of the things we all look forward to most each year.