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Entrepreneurs are queueing to set out their stalls at the popular summer festivals. But is it worth renting a space at the Sziget Festival or in the Valley of the Arts given the fixed prices? Is it about prestige or profit?

The festivals have their regular visitors, but also their regular traders. Partly because the organisers prefer to work with the companies they know, making it hard to get into the 'elite', and partly because the Sziget is a lifestyle, and it's not for everyone.

Thus the number of stalls has remained unchanged for years - the Sziget is full, according to Gabor Takacs, managing director of Sziget Cultural Events. The company offers three different packages to entrepreneurs, who must apply before April.

Food and drinks stands must rent a place, and can offer only drink bought from Sziget itself, at a fixed price. They set their own price for food. Stands selling alcohol don't rent their spot, but they have to buy all their products from Sziget and sell it at a fixed price.

Pal Losonczy, a joint owner of the Bahnhof Music Club, who helped develop the controlled distribution system, says that the guaranteed huge turnover brings profits of 40 to 50 per cent, even with fixed prices. The fixed price regime was introduced at the very beginning to protect consumers. Otherwise, stallholders would have pushed prices up sky-high, pushing the biggest party of the summer out of reach of its young target audience.

For Bahnhof, being present on the island has always been a matter of prestige, according to its owner. Building the stand, hiring extra

staff and other expenses come to some HUF1-1.5m. Bahnhof is closed

over the summer, and the one-week spree is an effective advertisement, keeping the Bahnhof name in people's minds.

Orsolya Muranyi, an independent businesswoman, has also been on the island for several years. The henna artist earns in that one week as much as she would ordinarily earn in a month. She pays HUF50,000 to rent a one-square-metre and also has to pay for the cheapest possible week-pass. But there is a downside - turnout is very dependent on the weather, travelling back and forth and eating also cost money, and it takes her a week to recover after the festival.

Stallholders don't get the rest they need if they sleep on the island, so they have to drive there - but cars have to leave the festival grounds before 8pm. If they break the rules, then cars are likely to get damaged over the course of the evening's revelries. This year, she plans to take a taxi to the island with her partner, with whom she will work in shifts from midday to 2am. And this will be yet another expense.

Hungarians tend to haggle, while Germans will pay any amount to beautify themselves. Tax inspectors try a different approach every year to catch out the tax avoiders. Traders often barter between themselves.

Preshaz Wine Merchants is an example of the elite among Sziget traders. The company, which sells high-quality Hungarian wines, was asked by the organisers to grace the festival.

Sandor Banki, the company's director, has enjoyed a free spot at the festival since 1999, giving the organisers a cut of his revenues.

There were problems at the beginning, since most Sziget-goers were looking for cheap alcohol. But the company now has its regular customers at the festival.

The company claims to earn a full month's income over Sziget week. The barmen are trained wine specialists, who work from 1pm to 1am. They are obliged to spend the rest of their time at home resting.

hvg.hu English version

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HVG English version

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