Sunday, 17 March 2019

Heard Under The Sheds - 17/3/2019

It would be difficult to find two more competitive traders than Joe & Mino but that didn’t stop them from sharing a comrade moment this week.

While a trader sat watching Opera In The Market recently he caught himself thinking how many customers paying $169 could fit into a standard market stall. And he came to two conclusions - firstly, that he can see why QVM might be interested in running more events under the sheds, and secondly, perhaps he should be taking singing lessons.

Speaking of business opportunities, one of our traders has proposed standing outside the toilets at the top of SBA and charging a small fee to dry the hands of customers because after 10:00am there are never any paper towels left (Not another toilet story - Ed)

There are many wonderful photo opportunities around our market and Ronnie’s van must be one of the most popular. Karl’s American Doughnut Kitchen might just claim top billing in the most photographed category but both are wonderful tourist magnets.

Sticking with Ronnie's van - a trader suggests that Ronnie should invest in a red Ferrari to attach to his van during Grand Prix week.

Forget the Grand Prix - one of our traders is suggesting that we might get more mileage (excuse the pun) out of St. Patrick’s Day than the Grand Prix which seems to drain the Northern end of the city. A Guinness stall in every aisle?

Another trader has a contrary view and says this is the first year he can remember that Grand Prix attendees were clearly evident in his sales tally on GP weekend.

And finally, there have been a few side bets on where Betty Jennings might end up when she makes way for the new containers in String Bean Alley. The shortest odds are on Betty getting just the spot she wants.

Latest Retail News – 17/3/2019

Latest Retail News – 17/3/2019
1. Retail Food Group struggles to stay afloat.
2. Shoes of Prey in liquidation.
3. Senate report says franchising industry needs a shift of power.
4. UBS report says shopping centre visitation decline in Australia the worst in Asia.
5. Build-A-Bear enters voluntary administration.
6. Zara sales growth slows.

Maybe QVM Is At The Cutting Edge of Milennial Attraction

The owner of one of the world's top retail consultancies has predicted that milennials will continue to be attracted to physical shopping although he issues a warning...

"Millennials have lived their whole lives being stimulated by inordinate amounts of media. By comparison, most retail is relatively boring, if we get right down to it. How many times a week do you walk into a store and say, ‘You know, I need to take a selfie of this place?’ Zero."

Well, hang on, we get lots of selfie/store photography at QVM. there are plenty of places where younger shoppers pull out their mobile phones and take a photo.

They do it in our Meat & Fish hall, during Queen St. festivals, at our Night Market, and some key traders like Karl's American Doughnut Kitchen and Ronnie's Fabulous Juice Van are subjected to constant selfie-taking.

Maybe we are more trendy than we realise.

Have Your Say - click here.

Shoes Of Prey In Liquidation

I can remember one of our market shoe sellers listing online newcomer Shoes Of Prey as one of the reasons he was leaving our market but it turns out that Shoes Of Prey didn’t have it right either.

A few years ago Shoes of Prey were the exciting new kids on the block with a revolutionary method of selling shoes to customer specifications from a website. Customers could choose a whole range of options including style and colour from a sophisticated interactive website.

Our market trader trader knew his stuff because he had handmade shoes to customer specifications for many years but he found that customers were no longer prepared to pay his prices for handmade excellence and he couldn’t quite understand how online sellers like Shoes of Prey were doing it.

Shoes of Prey went into liquidation a couple of weeks back, apparently victims of a change in consumer preferences. They claim their big mistake was assuming customers wanted to design their own shoes when in fact they were more impressed by copies of what other people, particularly famous people, were wearing. Instagram and Facebook were determining what people bought, rather than the opportunity to create your own design.

Just when you think retailing has chosen a course, it twists again.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Combining Efforts in String Bean Alley

The criteria for new traders in QVM's String Bean Alley includes a preference for locally produced goods and sometimes producing a product(s) and standing in a container to sell it, creates conflict. It is difficult to be in two places at once.

But maybe producers can combine their locally produced items in a single display and take it in turns to stand at the container for the selling function. You could imagine an interesting display of locally produced goods and an experienced manufacturer to advise customers.

Some sort of strategy would need to be worked out with management and one person would need to sign a license and be responsible for rent payments, but a co-operative model has potential.

If you are a producer interested in String Bean Alley but concerned about the conflict with manufacturing time then perhaps you could get together with like-minded producers and make a submission.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Heard Under The Sheds - 10/3/2019

A trader has suggested that every trader should have a $300 item in their range. A $300 item will almost certainly attract attention in a traditional market, and if and when it does sell, the impact on sales for the day will obviously be significant. Great advice, but what if you sell socks? - maybe offer a year’s supply?

Are there signs of cracking? If there was a barometer for trader frustration, one trader suggests if may be off the scale right now. Apparently there are reports of anger and even physical altercations over the past week. All sure signs that trade is really tough at the moment.

A customer rocked up to a trader and asked if he could use his stall for a wedding photo shoot that day. Given the disruption that a photo shoot could cause the trader suggested that they would need to ring him for a booking.

A few traders are asking if it is really necessary to have bollards installed on the internal walkways of the Upper Market on Fridays and weekends. With bollards controlling vehicular movement at the top and bottom of each aisle, aren’t the inner bollards just an unnecessary obstacle for pedestrian customers?

From one trader on Sunday - “Such great potential from the weekend’s crowds. If only we could push the button on consumer spending at the same time.”

Trader, Xenia Charalambous (Sonia), has decided to pull down the curtain on her time at QVM. Xenia had few peers in the field of customer service at QVM and her booming laughter could be heard aisles away. Xenia suffered a stroke in 2016 which prevented her from working at the market, and her daughters have been ably carrying on the business. We wish Xenia, Noni, Helen and the team every success for the future. - Kali tychi.

Opera in the market – as reported last week, a number of traders attended this event on Monday and gave it a big thumbs-up. We may tend to take our magnificent old sheds for granted but given the right lighting, the right sound, and the right occasion, they can really add atmosphere. 

Have Your Say - click here.

Myer Recovery?

Myer has reported an increase in profit but on lower sales which begs the question - have they simply given themselves more time to find a solution to department store decline?

Net profit is up 3.1% while total sales fell 2.8%. The company is continuing its focus on exclusive brands and making the most of its new website which apparently performed well in the lead-up to Christmas, and produced record online traffic on Boxing Day.

Myer says it will continue to focus on in-store customer service, expanding its exclusive brand range and improving its online offer. For them, increasing profit is a good start.

The Pain of Retail

“Australia's retailers have started the year where they ended it — in a world of pain.”

This was the quote from an article on the ABC this week. Australian January retail sales were up only 0.1% which surprised many who expected a rebound from December’s poor result (down 0.4%)

Meanwhile in the US, there were reports of 5,300 store closures over coming months including the likes of Gap, Victoria’s Secret and K-Mart. Payless Shoes (gone into liquidation) are closing 2500 stores.

And while it is fine to talk about the statistics, there is a more compelling element to the pain and one that is echoing around QVM right now. Financial hardship is very real for many traders, and even for those getting by, there is no escaping the frustration of declining trade. The personal impact of these times is inescapable.

There are calls for government action because consumer demand is such an important part of our economy’s health. The Reserve Bank is taking a keen interest in the performance of the economy as it mulls over interest rates. Major retail players like Myer are in the limelight as they grapple with extreme change in our industry.

For market traders there is plenty of advice, sometimes conflicting, often without guarantees, and only the game (or foolish) claim to have simple answers. As each of us work through our own situation it might pay to focus on what we can control and leave the rest to others. Frustration has little to offer.

By Greg Smith

Shipping Containers Are Green

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald this week praised the contribution of containers to the retail industry.

Extolling the flexibility, mass appeal, and point of difference with containers modified for retail use, the article identified high profile retailers like Tesla, Gucci, and Nike as past and present users.

And the “green” bit? With over 24 million unused shipping containers around the world, converting them to a useful retail purpose amortises the original energy investment in a very positive way. 

Latest Retail News – 10/3/2019

Latest Retail News – 10/3/2019
1. Report says retail insolvencies on the rise.
2. Hugh Jackman named as R.M.Williams boot ambassador.
3. IGA trialling smaller format stores.
4. Coles sells groceries on eBay.
5. Myer lifts profit.
6. Allensford takes 19% interest in Reject Shop.
7. Officeworks acquires Geeks2U.
8. Costco trumps Amazon in US online customer satisfaction.
9. Coles brings “Quiet hour” to 79 more stores.
10. Retail slows in January.
11. Kaufland receives aproval for 3 Victorian supermarkets.
12. Sports Direct seeks to sack Debenhams Board.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

A VIP Leaves Our Market

Security at QVM without Charlie will not be the same, but he is leaving us next week to enjoy a new life in country Victoria.

Charlie has spent 13 years helping to keep QVM a safe place. What Charlie lacks in height he makes up for in heart and a remarkable ability to control difficult situations. He is well known to many traders for his no-nonsense approach to keeping a large public space in order. Belligerent customers (including one last year with a hammer), difficult traders, lost children, and early morning or late night revellers have all been part of his watch.

But it is Charlie's friendly, positive disposition that has brightened the day for many and that is a trait that will be particularly missed. We wish Charlie a very happy and productive future as he takes on a new direction in life.

Have Your Say - click here.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Heard Under The Sheds – 3/3/2019

A bit of movement in the ranks of Fruit & Vegetable traders with reports that award winners from the 2018 QVM Trader Awards, the Bongiorno Brothers, have sold their business, and another F&V Trader has had their license cancelled.

And the caption for this photo – “He’s not spreading, just hanging out the washing.”

It is easy to complain about extreme temperatures during the current heatwave but as one trader pointed out it doesn’t seem to faze our tourist visitors who may only be in town for a few days and just get on with their shopping no matter what the conditions.

While we are talking about tourists – one English tourist said over the weekend that he will be telling his friends back home not to worry so much about the sharks, spiders, and snakes in Australia, but those bush fires are really scary.

Card or bust – a trader reported that card transactions over this weekend constituted 86% of his total sales. He put that down to tourists, including internationals, who now all seem to be enjoying the convenience of tap’n’go technology.

One traders answer to the heat problem.

Did anybody else notice that J Shed didn’t have many stall gaps in Sunday’s extreme heat? Is that aisle becoming the “comfort aisle”?

And one trader says he is surprised at how many traders are attending Opera At The Market this week. He didn’t realise we had so many cultured traders. Another trader who attended last year said the night was quite magnificent and the sound and lighting show off our wonderful old sheds in their true beauty. “Unfortunately we spoil the setting by putting in traders.” He was joking. Seriously! He was joking.

Trying To Make Sense Of QVM’s Upper Market Decline.

This may seem blindingly obvious but there is a simple reason why shopping centres are reducing the space devoted to standard shops and creating more entertainment - footfall is down.

Shoppers are no longer inspired by simple shopping and no amount of advertising is going to correct that. But modern retail thinking suggests there are other things that bring consumers to retail centres – things like concerts, arts centres, spas, fitness clubs, children’s activities, fine dining – and the list goes on. Things that create a desirable link with customers, and help form a bond, perhaps a community bond, that makes a centre able to satisfy other needs. Importantly these services provide a level of leisure and entertainment that can never be satisfied online.  

QVM is experiencing the same decline in “shopping activity” and that is why trader numbers are falling.  QVM has very successfully enhanced food and entertainment in its Night Market schedule, but the daytime activity remains a challenge, at least in the Upper Market. String Bean Alley is an interesting exercise.  It has the potential to create something new and interesting for the Day Market, and it fits in well with Night Market activities.

But the bigger picture for the Upper Market is a major exercise. It requires intense retail thinking and probably thinking that is driven by new learning. There is a huge amount of new learning and experimentation going on right now. Retailers around the globe are spending millions on new ways of exciting consumers and making shopping (sorry, “retail experiences”) more convenient and desirable.

To some extent that future is out of the hands of individual traders although the search for new entrepreneurial ideas, and general excellence in retailing, should remain the aim for every trader. But amongst traders there are real frustrations with things like stall gaps, and when times are tough, time is an enemy.  It might be helpful if we could start the conversation on how we curate a better market right now. There are plenty who would put their shoulder to that cause.

By Greg Smith

Whats In A Name ? - Take Two

Yes, we did post this article last week and we do apologise for showing it again but some of you may have noticed that the Have Your Say function wasn't working. Our friendly technology conglomerate Google decided to disable one of the plug-ins that we were using for feedback so we have now devised a whole new way of making comments about articles. 
Here is the article again. If you are reading this direct from the post you will find a comment option at the bottom. If not, click on the heading to the article and the comment option will appear. Please comment if you wish. Thanks - Ed

General Merchandise as a category or precinct name has a chequered history and has sparked many debates.

Some years ago a group of traders in the Upper Market got sick of the “General” term claiming it was derogatory to their category because in fact many considered themselves specialists in specific products. In other words, not General Traders, but Specialty traders.

So the term “Specialty Merchandise” was developed as a substitute for General Merchandise and it has been championed by Victraders for some time. The theory is that most traders in the Upper Market specialise in a particular product or range of products. Most are experts in their field and can offer specialised advice to their customers. So the term “Special” is appropriate whether we are talking about the product or the knowledge of the trader. The same applies in our food areas.

The term Specialty Merchandise or Specialty Traders, has filtered into common usage and can be found in some high level documents relating to QVM planning and renewal. Yet, when the question was raised at the TRC last year they opted to retain the use of “General Merchandise”. Some would say that was consistent with the TRC’s reputation for resisting change in our market.

And just when you thought you had a handle on this there is another name proposal. Why not just call the Specialty Traders “Retail”, and the others “Food”. Yes, technically food (at least at QVM)  is retail, but a publicly released QVM document from 2015 made the distinction between Food and Retail which seemed to make sense. It probably depends on who you are aiming your story at. The public may accept Food and Retail as sensible differentiations but within our market walls we may seek more definition.

What’s In a name? Well obviously in this case it is a confusion of identities that sparks much debate. If you want to add to the debate, particularly if you have a solution, we would love to hear from you.

Footnote: Here is how Wikipedia describes a Specialty Store -
A speciality (AE: specialty) store has a narrow marketing focus  – either specializing on specific merchandise, such as toys, footwear, or clothing, or on a target audience, such as children, tourists, or plus-size women. Size of store varies  – some speciality stores might be retail giants such as Toys "R" Us, Foot Locker, and The Body Shop, while others might be small, individual shops such as Nutters of Savile Row.[158] Such stores, regardless of size, tend to have a greater depth of the specialist stock than general stores, and generally offer specialist product knowledge valued by the consumer. Pricing is usually not the priority when consumers are deciding upon a speciality store; factors such as branding image, selection choice, and purchasing assistance are seen as important. They differ from department stores and supermarkets which carry a wide range of merchandise.

Latest Retail News – 3/3/2019

Latest Retail News – 3/3/2019
1. The Gap says it is thinking of selling its Old Navy brand but the new women’s active-wear Athletica brand is kicking goals.
2. Woolworths scraps $1 milk.
3. Online retailer, Catch, claims sales up 62% in first half.
4. Coles profit drops on re-structure.
5. Talks underway to bring Toys’R’Us back to Australia.
6. January retail spending up.
7. Woolworths first half profit up 1%.
8. Negative same store sales in Reject Shop’s first half.
9. Woolworths and Coles battle over click’n’collect market.
10. Officeworks and Bunnings show earnings growth while K-Mart stumbles.
11. Myer comes first in department store customer satisfaction.
12. Coca Cola Amatil profit falls on SPC writedowns.
13. Adairs expects consumer downturn.
14. Michael Hill profit bounces back after exiting USA.
15. Woolworths online sales up 30%.
16. Priceline introduces fashion.