Sunday 13 August 2017

Keeping the Market Feel

Much of the criticism of QVM’s renewal plans concerns the fear of heritage loss. Indeed the latest alternative to council plans involves a solution that avoids taking down heritage sheds in A,B, and C in case they are either damaged or otherwise compromised. Balancing "heritage" and modern shopping reality has been an issue right through this debate.

The author of the business case document on QVM renewal made a very good point. QVM is in danger of becoming a tourist curiosity if we don't address modern customer and trader needs. As one of our traders said - “Curiosity doesn't pay bills”.

We need to address consumer needs at QVM while keeping the unique market ingredients that differentiates us from the alternatives. But we dare not get in the way of customer convenience whatever we do. When it comes to the crunch, that special market feel is no substitute for convenient affordable shopping. Retaining aspects of our antiquated ways, like our heritage buildings, makes sense as long as we fix the bits that need fixing, like forcing customers, vehicles, and waste to share the same space.

Of course the alternative car park proposal is not just driven by protecting heritage buildings. It also about avoiding lengthy disruption to trading areas caused by digging a big hole under A,B,C and D sheds. It is not yet clear what impact that alternative proposal will have on customer parking. The official renewal proposal involves construction of a new car park under the Munro’s building before the current car park is transformed into a park. It is not clear where cars will go if there was to be construction on top of the current car park.

“Heritage” and “market feel” are subjective terms with no shortage of varying opinions. Building over graveyards in the current car park is probably not a big issue for most market traders although the population at large seems to feel differently. OH&S is a big issue, particularly for management who are responsible for smooth market operations. Modern standards require trucks, forklifts and piles of rubbish out of sight and away from customers. Those ingredients may add to the market's “grittiness” but many argue that ultimately the produce itself is king. How we service that produce has to be convenient and cost effective for traders but essentially it is just a distraction for customers.

This is a complex debate and the grand old lady deserves consideration of all worthwhile options. The latest car park proposal deserves consideration. However, we don't want to waste too much time before moving forward. There is no shortage of “expert opinion” at QVM.

By Greg Smith