I read an article in the Herald Sun this week that typified much of the anti-renewal debate and like many similar arguments missed a point that most traders get.
The article was written by an academic and there were some wonderful word pictures – stories of the old days and the emotion of a true community market, the banter, the social exchanges – all things which, as a 35 year plus trader I recognise and embrace. The author talked about the market rejecting the conformity of supermarket chains and reminding us that life is about choices. All those things are true but that is not why the Queen Victoria Market is here.
The Queen Victoria Market comprises a group of individual traders who operate a particular business model. That business model is based on meeting the needs of a population, hopefully the vast majority of that population, because volume is important to how we do business. We are expected to meet those needs in regard to quality, price, and freshness (in the case of food). But our business model is suffering and you only need to look at the empty stalls for evidence of that. Our model has been compromised. It has been disrupted by many things including a communication revolution, and a whole lot of new choices for consumers. There is online ordering, a multi-year supermarket war that has disrupted traditional concepts of food buying, and an over-emphasis on convenience in the lives of consumers that impacts on how retailers do business.
We market traders are here to do business. All those other things, the emotion, the personal exchanges are by-products of doing our job really well. They are not why we are here. We need to focus on what got us here a century and a half ago – being relevant to the needs of the population and excelling at what we do. When we get that focus back and embrace the gift of a market re-investment (renewal is just about making up for lost investment over the last 30 or so years), then we can achieve great things.
Being really good at meeting the contemporary needs of consumers is the most important lesson from our past.
By Greg Smith