Sunday 16 June 2013

Are Empire Builders Working Against QVM?

Traders or families who operate multiple stalls at QVM are being scrutinised in the wake of customer criticism that there is too much repetition at our market and that really goes against the traditional market model. The matter has been highlighted this week with news that a souvenir trader who already operates 4 stalls, may be granted another souvenir stall.

We know that stall repetition at QVM is an issue with our customers and, although there a few factors at play, a significant contributor is individuals or families who operate a number of stalls with the same product ranges. Traditionally, market stalls have been operated by passionate, committed individuals with a clever idea, great product knowledge, and the personal enthusiasm that customers find particularly appealing. That environment craves individuality and variety and stamps itself as being quite different to boring shopping malls. Traders with strong links to their product ranges need a certain amount of entrepreneurial spirit to succeed but when expansion and domination become the primary drivers we question how appropriate they are to QVM. 

Markets have been described as places where businesses are essentially "fragile and modest". This doesn't mean that there isn't a place for larger businesses. Marks & Spencer, the famous UK department store still operates a stall out of Kirkgate market in the UK. and Maille's condiment store at Spitalfields Market is a standout. For QVM it is a question of repetition rather than size or reputation.
QVM is a large market and probably vast enough to accommodate some repetition. However, when that works against our customer appeal it must be corrected.

16/06/2013 18:12:54 Empire Building "Yes,yes,yes!!!! You wanna build an empire, go play with the big boys outside of the market. And let us "modest" guys just get on with what we do. Offer the best quality at the best price, on merchandise we really care about." 
 17/06/2013 07:08:03 empire?? "the stall you are commenting on in this blog,will aesthetically look good, presented well."

17/06/2013 08:42:25  Empire Building!         "Dear Trader, it seems you are missing the point. This is not about a particular stall. The problem and discussion is a lot bigger than that. The Market has been allowed (with the obvious complicity of certain traders and management) to allow unacceptable numbers of stalls selling like products, which is detracting enormously from public appeal and hence the drawing power of the market. But it's even more complex than that.

The other very attractive aspect of a market is that they're not about multinational corporations or franchises or big business, but small independent retailers, typically individual run or family run, which are at the market because they are an alternative to the mentality and philosophy outside of the market. They are an alternative, something different, friendlier, more human, more social and personable. Hence the famous and essential ""point of difference"". The fact is that the market will only be able to compete with other outside retail outlets when its perceived to be about people who are less interested in ""money, money, money"" and are very interested and passionate in people and products. Which can also be read as service and quality.

Yes, they also need to achieve along with quality, price. But not because they have large business interests in and out of the market, and exploit the low cost possibility the market offers to ""make a killing"". And in the process devour the market and ""take over"" their sector of the market. Seriously if you want to do that, you are in the wrong place, go outside with the other sharks (apologies to sharks). Quality is achieved by being so passionate about what we do and having such pride in what we offer that nothing but the best is acceptable. Price is possible because we have relatively low costs in operating from the market. And if we're serious we have done some real hard work to source out a special product at a special price. We don't just pick up the phone and ask our supplier to send another 100 of whatever's going at the moment.

So let us recap: To survive a market needs a point of difference. Granted one of its main difference needs to be price as well as quality, but even that alone won’t do it anymore, because most readily available products can be had for the same price and quality online or in discount stores. So what we desperately need is a reason why you would come to the market, and the most likely reason is because you can't find what we've got at the prices we've got with the passion we've got and the knowledge we've got anywhere else. Ideally it should be (as it once was) that you knew that every time you walked into a stall you were talking to the person who made what he was selling, if not you would like him to be as close to the person making it as possible. But you definitely want him to know and love everything about the product.
For the market to survive we need to get back to as close to that model as possible. That is why world-wide statistics indicate that farmers markets are the only markets showing constant and real growth. When will we get the message? And when will we (council - management AND traders) start caring more about the market than our back pockets, because only then can we hope that the market will have a long, prosperous and dignified future.

So no dear trader, its not about you. It's about all of us. Your ""problem"" is just part of the bigger problem. And the point is, we need to start finding and working towards the solution. And I'm sorry, your having 4, 8, 12 stalls is definitely not part of the solution."           Ivano    

17/06/2013 10:42:03 Multiple stall holding "We tend to ask patrons (where appropriate) a) Where are you from? and b) what do you think of the market? By far the most common responses are that there is too much repetition and that there is too much Rubbish (their word, not mine). By that I assume they mean low cost, poor quality. Good products, reasonable prices and a good presentation are the key elements in retail - and especially in the QVM. This will differentiate you from the herd. I have not counted how many stalls sell almost identical items and it would be interesting to see an analysis. Whatever the result, we don't want multiple holdings offering the same product." Terry Lawn - Airllywood

12/06/2013 19:51:20 Customer response "We had a pretty good trading day on Saturday and Sunday , But a lot of our customers have told us that returnig to the market was an experience for some, as they have noticed a decline in good quality merchandise across. They said it was a huge repeat of the same everywhere and a lot of very cheap stuff as in $2.00 SHOPS. They felt the market went down hill since they visited last and there are only a handfull of traders that offer a good quality merchandise at great prices that the customers are happy to come back for." Lusia. - Editors note: Lusia's comment was posted last week but we felt it was appropriate to link it with this article. We hope that is OK Lusia.

17/06/2013 11:41:12 Multi stalls "Well said Ivano. As I have grown up in the market I have seen many changes. Traders coming and going, traders passing away and lots of changes in what is sold here. What I have noticed in the past few years is the increase in the same stalls owned by the same people but obviously not operated by them as you can't operate more than one stall your self. How can a couple operate four or five stalls selling scarves, hats and cheap jewellery or souvenirs? Ever since these new trader leases have come in all the old systems and rules are being pushed out the door. Do we want to have an aisle full of souvenirs, another of clothes, another of childrens wear (which I know they are trying to do in C shed)? If this happens there go all the customers. They come in to buy childrens things so thats where they directly go, so of course they don't go down any other aisle and everyone else loses out. In the old days we all used to fight to prevent this from happening, but are we all to scared in case those on the leases lose their lease or we get a strike against our name. I'm proud of what my mum and dad created and I want to keep it going, but with all these new traders being allowed to bring cheap, low quality products in and have multiple stalls it's really starting to make us look like a trash and treasare." Leah  

18/06/2013 15:24:24 empire "I think another point is that we are all in the market to make money, there is no question in that,we all work long hours but is it right that for some reason one trader is allowed to expand and the next trader who has been in the market for generations is not. I believe that there is a place for everyone,but the playing field must be level for all, not just a chosen few. My market was build on tradition and the sad fact now is that tradition has been thrown out the door. " Drita