The imminent renewal of the physical infrastructure component of the Market is long overdue and can greatly assist the Market to meet the challenges it confronts now and in the future, but just as important, if not more important, is the need to maintain the relevance of the Market and return the Market to its historic role as an essential place for the community both from a retail and a social perspective.
Modern retail markets are confronting continually increasing challenges to maintain relevance and viability in the constantly changing retail environment, whether those challenges come from online retail, multinationals or from changing consumer expectations.
As small business owners we are very unlikely to have the time, ability or resources to be able to deal with those immense forces and challenges. As a result, there is a greater need for a more sophisticated and professional approach to how markets are run and operated, to the assistance and support we are given. This greater sophistication and support requires increased resourcing and a very different approach from traders, management and market owners.
Given the commitment by the City of Melbourne to an enormous financial investment in the physical renewal of the Market it is obvious that they cannot be expected to carry the entire weight of this essential increased resourcing and support mentioned above.
Here are some basic rules or principles on which all participants could combine to ensure the Market continues to thrive and be better resourced, supported and managed:
1) The Market will be self sufficient, and the City will not be expected to subsidize the Market with rate payers money except in exceptional and mutually agreed circumstances. At the same time the City of Melbourne will commit to 'give back' to rather than 'take away' from the Market by foregoing any financial return to the City other than ongoing infrastructure costs.
2) Traders likewise will not just 'take' from the Market but 'give back' to the Market by pledging to an increased resourcing of the Market via a commitment to a rent/revenue ratio of between 10-15% of their sales. (indications are that whilst currently some Traders are contributing within that rate others are contributing less than 2% of their sales as their share of resourcing the market ).
3) The management company will be set up as a 'not for profit' with greater inclusiveness, transparency and accountability in their decision making processes. Their entire focus will be on the performance of the Market as a market and as a community and social space.
As a consequence there will be greater accountability and transparency and the success of management will be determined by the financial management and viability of the Market along with other metrics more aligned with their ability to maintain the Market's retail relevance, business incubation function and social and community outcomes.
4) Customers and the community at large will also be encouraged to resource the market via voluntary contributions and the creation of funds set up to accomplish specific goals or purposes.
Are we 'just dreaming'. Is this just pure idealism? Well it certainly is a dramatic shift from the current mindset and culture. To accomplish what is suggested above necessitates a complete change from the increasingly toxic and adversarial 'us and them' dynamic currently on display, and from that unhelpful 'victim/perpetrator' mindset. It involves accepting a collective responsibility of the complicit role all us have played in varying degrees in allowing the Market to devolve to this point. But more importantly it involves a commitment to begin to work together, less focused on self interest, on not just taking away from the Market but being more focused on giving back to the Market, to the success of the Market, which ultimately is ensuring the success of each one of us, whether we are market owners, operators, traders, customers or members of the community.
One thing is certain and that is that the future success of our Market needs a dramatic shift in culture and goals. It needs a collaborative approach, a united front, it needs greater resourcing, more give and less take from all of us. It is all too easy to point the finger and blame others. It is much harder to accept our individual and collective responsibility and the role we have played which has led us to this point.
We can’t change the past but we can better prepare for the future. So let’s embrace future change, let's think as much about giving as about taking, and let’s make QVM great again.
By a passionate, committed market trader.