The imperatives that drive the QVM Board and management team are under scrutiny as we face the appointment of a new CEO at Australia’s premier public market and the question needs to be asked – “What are they managing?”
A trader recently asked the question - If this was a sport, say Australian Rules Football, would we regard ourselves as just the ground managers, or would we take wider responsibility for the health of the football competition?
The underlying function of a public market is its retail sales function. Our market has social and community roles but it is primarily in existence for the exchange of goods and services for money. Traders have often criticised the focus by QVM (the company) as a property manager. The real question is - what needs to be managed at the market so as to ensure the market truly becomes a “world class market precinct… forever”? (which is the language linked to the Renewal). Is it the activity at the market or is it the infrastructure that houses the market?
Back in 2013, QVM were looking for a new CEO. Fortunately we had Jan Cochrane-Harry already on our doorstep, but that is another story. The advertisement at the time said – “Candidates will preferably have a business background in property, infrastructure, major events or the like...” Note that there was no mention of retail experience. So, getting back to the football comparison, would we be happy with an applicant who prioritised the ground resources, the watering and cutting of the grass, making sure the stadiums were clean and safe etc. (the property) but didn’t have experience and interest in the performance of the teams, the game scores, the player and team stats and health, match attendances, the interest of fans, and the myriad of other factors that make up a healthy competition.
Now, we know it is dangerous territory to argue using analogies. The point is that the level of understanding of the grass-roots game, in our case retailing ( and in particular how a market fits into the retails environment ), doesn’t seem to have been a high priority at QVM and, in a time of retail recession and market renewal, do the QVM Board and the City of Melbourne need to change that? How far are they to be “ground keepers” and how far are they to be "makers of a world class retail market”?