When three traders went to meeting with the Lord Mayor of Melbourne back in 2012 they didn't know quite what to expect. They went with concerns about the decline of the market and, in particular, the lack of investment. The market was being run with little concern for the future and a mindset that placed yearly returns to Council ahead of real market improvement.
To hear the Lord Mayor had similar concerns was a very pleasant surprise and subsequent developments, including a renewal spend of up to $250m was way beyond original expectations. And QVM renewal is not just some empty statement of intent. After a long process we now have a QVM Renewal Master Plan, a Project Team, and most of the formalities of State Government approval and City Council commitment in place.
On the surface of it, this is an impressive achievement. Not quite fairy tale level, but impressive nonetheless. But, as often happens, there is devil in the detail and the process of renewal has the potential to bring significant hardship to small businesses at QVM over the next few years.
One of the biggest problems for any business, large and small is uncertainty. At QVM we will be faced with large doses of business uncertainty. How will we trade in new locations? How will customers react? Can we turn renewal and construction into excitement for customers? Can we use this period to experiment with new ways of engaging, new trading hours, and new merchandising methods? Will changes work?
There is no doubt that re-investment has the potential to put a great market on the right track for the next 150 years. Along the way, traders are going to need a great deal of consideration. They will need support and probably compensation. The City of Melbourne, and QVM will need to place trader health high on their priorities. But even more important than those two will be customers. Customer commitment, particularly during this transition, will be crucial to the health of traders. Perhaps our message to customers could be - "Come join the grand adventure with us".