Friday 2 August 2013

Barcelona – City of Markets.

There are 43 public markets in the city of Barcelona and they form a market system with no parallel in the world today.

Understandably, markets are integral to the cities shopping culture and 65% of shoppers use their local market to do their shopping.
The markets are characterised by a huge variety of food and knowledgeable vendors who sell it. Barcelona has successfully endured the transition from old ways of selling food to meeting the needs of a contemporary society and all the dynamic changes that go with it. 

Sourcing local produce was an imperative in old times and has become fashionable in the current debate over sustainability. Barcelona’s markets certainly support local produce but they also embrace globalisation and sourcing produce from all around the world. Their aim is to meet the lifestyle demands of their customers irrespective of where the produce is sourced.
In fact this willingness to adapt is considered one of the major reasons for the success of Barcelona’s markets. Being flexible and adjusting quickly to consumers needs is seen as an imperative.
Meeting customer needs is so important that supermarkets, rather than seen as the enemy, are embraced and form an important component of the market structure although they are generally a lot smaller than found in other parts of the developed world. “Instead of fighting the supermarkets, the traditional markets have instead incorporated them into the building, allowing people to get their fresh, quality food, but also buy their cleaning supplies, beer, and diapers, products that are not typically available in the public market.”
One of Barcelona’s strengths is the effectiveness of the umbrella organisation running the markets, the Institute of Municipal Markets of Barcelona. The IMMB concentrates on sustaining their markets and meeting the changing needs of consumers through effective local sourcing arrangements and establishing international connections with other market authorities. They recognise the hugely important cultural and social connections that markets provide not only in sourcing food but in providing places for human interaction.

Barcelona has a wonderful food culture and a strong market system. Translating the winning formula to other markets requires cautious evaluation. No two cities are the same, but Melbourne’s QVM can draw some lessons from the Barcelona experience-
   1. Focussing on consumer’s changing needs is an essential ongoing process.
   2. Being dynamic and flexible in your product sourcing is an imperative.
   3. A market has cultural and social ingredients that are inter-mingled with shopping.
   4. Market renovation and modernisation are essential but 4 ingredients must not change – quality, variety, professionalism and accountability.