Sunday 17 June 2018

Mixed Reaction To Market Spend

A big fuss has been made about Sally Capp’s announcement that an extra $1.7m or so is to be spent on maintenance and marketing at QVM but many traders believe this misses the point.

If you are one if that small group that believes that all our market needs is a lick if paint and a tidy up and that miraculously that will reverse the current market decline then you are probably delighted. But those traders who listened wide-eyed many months ago as comprehensive renewal plans were unveiled to set a grand new course for our market, are still waiting, and this temporary cover-up has little merit.

Don’t get this wrong, extra investment is fine and an extra $770,000 on maintenance, and the first $1m from the $8m Trader Support Scheme (which we understand is to be spent on marketing) is all good. Sally Capp and the CoM are to be congratulated for finding extra funding.

Our market needs maintenance. Dirt, dust, broken footpaths, rubbish, and bad smells, all need addressing. Traders need assistance in how they promote their businesses.

But maintenance, brushing over, and more advertising are not going to fix the big issue. We are in a retail revolution involving a dramatic change in consumer sentiment and our market simply struggles to compete. It is not because all of a sudden consumers have forgotten about us and need reminding through more advertising. It is because cash-strapped consumers have adjusted their spending, (in some categories dramatically cut spending) embraced alternative shopping options, and in many cases pushed shopping convenience to the top of their priority list.

We have no excuses here. We know that consumers embrace entertainment with their shopping, and are happy to spend more on ready to eat food. We know they demand comfort and convenience, and want more ways of buying. They are demanding more from their shopping experience.

For many traders the way to address the shift in consumer thinking was with modern underground facilities that made the produce on top of the ground the hero, and a cutting edge market pavilion that showed consumers we could excite and tantalise. It showed the world that, yes, we could retain our iconic old world charm but meet the challenges of new consumerism and show we are relevant to the next 140 years of community markets in Melbourne.

And there are a few more things  - add in a review of trading hours, new ways of setting up and merchandising stalls, address glaring weather protection issues, expand the successful Night Market concept, educate traders in modern self-promotion, and maybe we would be on the right track to long term recovery. Most of that is yet to happen.

The $1.7m is welcome but this is no easy fix and a successful future for traders requires vision, a grand plan, and at least a dash of entrepreneurial endeavor. Let’s get on with that job.

By Greg Smith