Wednesday 26 April 2017

Interfering Could Cost Us Our Market

Sometimes it is necessary to be blunt in commenting on an important issue and the attempts by “interferers” to derail justifiable investment in our market smacks of a compromise that could endanger the market's future. 

            The latest propaganda by the anti market renewal, anti city hall, (well, anti a lot of things) lobby is to put actress Sigrid Thornton up as an expert on QVM market investment. Why we should listen to this “regular market customer” more than other participants in the debate is difficult to understand. In fact you can extend that list of questionable opinions to wannabe politicians, casual academics, (casual in the sense that they don’t have the same vested interest as real traders) and even market operators who are just looking after their own business interests and don’t have a more extended view of what is best for all traders at QVM.

            Apparently Thornton has expressed concerns at "the skyscraper property deal". But, seriously, who cares about Munro’s being a property deal? The current Munro site has little if any merit. The Munro proposal will provide a building that better enhances our market with its red brick façade,  lane way format, and intended use. Traders generally seem impressed by the proposal. Yes, it has a high-rise, but that is important for the overall business case and if done successfully will help finance essential improvements at QVM.

"Traders with management"

            Traders have a right to be unashamedly parochial on renewal. This is business, and this is a matter for traders and management. We are the key ingredients in a city identity that evokes emotional responses in a whole range of people. We get that…but addressing years of neglect and overcoming a global retail revolution requires intense focus by the experts – traders with management.

            I honestly don’t believe that the majority of traders support the anti-renewal philosophy. We traders know that something special needs to be done about the decline of our market. We have been crying out for investment for years, and now it is here, it would be crazy to support watered down compromises (I don’t recall any genuinely innovative suggestions from the anti group).
In any case what massive destruction is being proposed for renewal? The market is pretty much going to look as it has always looked although the car park will become a pedestrian park. The market will still be dominated by small businesses doing what they do best (personally ensuring that customers get service excellence). But achieving that excellence, and competing with a whole range of very competent competitors, will require better facilities – power, water, refrigeration, cleanliness, technology, stock handling, customer services, and so on. And they are areas that we have lost ground on or, in some cases, never really had.

It is important that we get this right. And getting it right is unlikely to include compromises for those who are cynical of change. One of the definitions of compromise is "the expedient acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable." QVM deserves better than that.

Change can be a frightening prospect. Even the cleverest and most confident in this debate acknowledge that there are unknowns. But keeping the right people (traders with management) focussed on the right problems (addressing real business needs at QVM) will give us the best chance of success. The rest is just a distraction.

By Greg Smith