Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Big Gap In Managing Our Market

Like any worthwhile cause the debate around the future of The Queen Victoria Market has created different camps - different points of view that can clash and disrupt. If there is common ground to be found then that would be a good thing.

In the Trader movement itself it can be said that there are two camps - one that sees a need for change and one that says "leave our market alone".  You can see these opposing views in action during debates over issues like the E/F Shed food court. One side wanted to explore the benefits that could come from re-invigorating and re-arranging the top end of E/F Shed, while another said "Forget it. I'm not moving".

E/F Shed is a very interesting example of the difference between a world view of our market and a view focussed on individual businesses. A world view sees the decline in our market and the need for structural change. It acknowledges that there are some major structural shifts in global retailing that require a whole new look at the way we do business. An individual business view sees the decline in our market and says fix it, but don't expect me to pay for it and don't upset my business in the process.

In fact it is unfair to categorise views so narrowly and to somehow diminish the right of small businesses to be concerned about their immediate welfare. The camp who wanted to trial an E Shed Food Court probably included many F Shed food vendors desperate to turn around their own businesses. It is equally unfair to dismiss the need for change – the evidence around the world is compelling. Somehow the divide in thinking needs to be closed and a way forward found.

An interesting take on the MCG/AFL analogy came up recently. It was suggested that at QVM management wanted to be the MCG and operate a property for hire by traders (just like the MCG hires out its ground to the AFL and others), and traders wanted to set up an association to protect their rights (like the AFL Players Association). But nobody really wanted to look after the market (nobody wants to be the AFL, the true custodians of the game). That is the gap that both traders and management need to fill.

There is a lot of work to be done here. There is some heavy thinking going on within management and trader ranks right now with a meeting held on Trader Governance just yesterday. Obviously we need to get this right, and traders will be crucial to the outcome.