Sunday 30 June 2019

Heard Under The Sheds - 30/6/2019

Siberian Hamster - fans of Fawlty Towers will remember Manuel’s Siberian Hamster (it was in fact a more mundane rodent). A hamster was sighted in Spring Bean Alley on Saturday morning and was quickly bagged before it upset too many customers.

An experienced market person reckons that a Saturday Night Market is worth a try for the Upper Market.

Saturday’s combination of rain and extremely strong winds tested many traders and reinforced the luxury for those who trade in the comparative comfort of J-RL Sheds. A trader suggested that it was the height of optimism to read the forecast for Saturday and still come in expecting reasonable trade. Yep, we are just a bunch of optimists.

One trader said that two of his customers were unfazed by the atrocious weather. One was from Canberra, the other from Hobart.

A Trader says he made the mistake of checking his sales figures over the last few months and comparing them with last year. He now wishes he hadn’t although it did explain the level of his bank account.  

Another Trader doesn’t need convincing that consumers have dried up their spending to previously unheard of levels. He sells umbrellas, and on Saturday, despite extended rain periods, did not sell one.

A Trader has a new name for SBASpring-A-Leak Alley. Thanks for the name-twist Jeff.

A Trader asks if a lower rent could be struck when you’re your aisle has more than 20% absentees. The gaps certainly create a bad impression with customers.

And In our desperate search for positive news we can relate a comment from one happy trader who says that over the last few months he has spent much less on cash register rolls and carry bags – not quite what we had in mind.

The Happiest Trader in the Market Award goes to wood burner Mick as he completes his first week in SBA with a permanent display, a new engraving machine, and a roller door. 

Stars Shine At Lord Mayor's Awards

This week's ceremony at Melbourne Town Hall recognised the contribution to our great city by small business including these equally great QVM Traders.

As a previous award winner
Bruce Pham was a guest at
the evening


More Than A Market

In the cold hard world of business we need to remain logical, considered, and not let emotion get in the way of good decisions. But sometimes that is hard, and two conversations at QVM this week highlighted that dilemma.

First was the Trader who became teary talking about the immense frustration of trying to get some changes at their stall and the barriers that were being put in their way. Tears are reluctantly shown around our market (tired kids excluded) and this was a Trader desperate to get the very best for their business and to showcase their offer in the best possible way.

The second conversation was quite different. This Trader has long been planning retirement and ensuring that their children took up the reins of running the stall. They have slowly managed the transition and everything was going to plan, except for one thing - working at QVM is far more enjoyable than retirement. Their problem now is to maintain contact with the market they love and not get in the way of their kids.

QVM is not just a market. For many of its Traders it is an immensely important prime business activity and an integral part of their lifestyle. It is more than buying, selling, and merchandising. It is more than profit and loss. There are many reasons why this is a special place to work.  The enjoyment of running your own business, the striving for excellence, and the unique social bonds you form in a market are all part of the package.

Take out the emotion? Good luck with that.

What's Next At QVM?

With two very worthwhile projects under the QVM belt, (completing String Bean Alley and transforming Queen St.), maybe it is time for the next big thing - curating the Upper Market.

In June 2017 we published an article “Is It Time We Curated Our Market?” and 2 years later all that has really changed is the frustration of traders as gaps grow and our look deteriorates. Every trader has been quizzed by customers on the look of the market, but what really hurts is when experienced outside retailers ask “What is going on here?” The look of our market is a serious issue.

Of course it is not just the gaps around our market, but the exposing of infrastructure like storage boxes and racking that were never really intended for public display. The backside of our market is usually not very pretty.

Fixing the gaps is no easy matter. We already have a shifting trader population and short term absences only have to be notified the day before. It is difficult to plan for those. There are many uncertainties and maybe there will need to be more predictability if gaps are to be avoided. Or, as one trader suggested, just make the trading area smaller, rope off unused areas, and let the laws of supply and demand create the fully populated market.

Many traders believe that the look of our market is unacceptable on too many trading days. We suspect that the climate is ripe for considering all options for improving our public face. It will require significant effort, resources, and co-operation but somehow the gaps need to be fixed, and quickly.

Latest Retail News – 30/6/2019

Latest Retail News – 30/6/2019
1. Reserve Bank says retail suffering more than any other industry in Australia.
2. A French online marketplace for buying and selling pre-owned luxury fashion gets S65m funding.
3. Amazon expected to take lead in UK’s cooking & baking market from Sainsbury.
4. ROPO (research online, purchase offline) is latest retail buzzword.
5. Some retailers blaming poor sales on plastic bag ban.
6. Woolworths expands its checkout free, Scan&Go, trial to more stores.
7. Amatil develops Australia’s first 100% recycled plastic drink bottle.
8. Monash survey says 92% of Australian consumers believe sustainable business practices are now expected.
9. H&M focuses more on online investment.

QVM In The News - 30/6/2019

A woman has died in hospital after being struck by a truck turning a corner in West Melbourne near the Queen Victoria Market. The woman, who is yet ...
The couple has been in business together for 45 years and their iconic stall has become an institution at the Queen Victoria Market (QVM). And with ...
Open-air markets provide a vastly different shopping experience from ... Located in the Australian city of Melbourne, Queen Victoria Market is the ...

Sunday 23 June 2019

Heard Under The Sheds - 23/6/2019

Precision Parking - during the week a steel ramp was placed across the entrance to Michael Mallon’s stall and we asked him how he got his car in to his stall without damaging the ramp. It might not be quite clear in the photo but the ramp is significantly elevated and can't be driven over. Here is Michael's explanation. “I drove at considerable speed down the aisle, and at just the right moment pulled on the handbrake and swung the wheel rally driver style. The subsequent spin, with a gentle launch off the edge of the ramp, landed me perfectly in the stall. It was all just one fluid movement. It might be a little harder getting out.” We can’t wait to see the CCTV and of course we don’t doubt his story.

The SBA roller coaster - many of the newcomers to String Bean Alley have a whole new appreciation of open air markets with this weekend’s variable weather. Moving stock out of the rain, protecting against wind-blown moisture, all while presenting products as well as possible for those customers prepared to venture up the alley between rain showers - a constantly changing environment and one which traders out in Queen St. have put up with for years.

Theories abound amongst traders about the reasons for low business levels at the moment but maybe the most accurate refers to exceedingly low consumer sentiment. A Trader pointed out that the last time this happened (the 2008 GFC), Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, gave everybody $1000 or so, and we spent our way out of a problem. It was a brilliant strategy and one that current PM, Scott Morrison, could perhaps emulate.

A good crowd turned out for the Night Market this week although not everybody was happy with observations that a younger (and poorer) demographic seemed to dominate.

A couple of traders in the Upper Market reported “donuts” on Friday and they weren’t the edible variety. (For the uninitiated a “donut” is a nil sales day - a big fat zero)

A trader said he was visited by a tour this week. It was a QVM tour and the guide introduced the Trader and asked him to explain his product to the group. The Trader has been visited by tours before but it surprised him that this one was all locals. And to complete the tale, a few returned later and purchased. Love those good news stories.

Jumping to conclusions - a Trader said he was impressed with the Truffle Festival up in A Shed this weekend but felt it was unfair competition for the cafe at the top of A Shed. It turns out the reverse was true and the big crowd caused a spike in nearby trade. As our photo shows that was a serious crowd.

A Trader who doesn’t sell food is wondering if you can buy truffle infused carry bags - anything to get truffles at his stall.

Another Trader suggested that if we can get a key festival in A Shed every weekend, get String Bean Alley up and firing, and add a few attractions in between, we might just have the answer to recovery in the Upper Market.

No rescue day! - a Trader commented that even on the quietest weeks you usually get a “rescue day”, a day when takings are higher than normal and a day that revives your business expectations. He didn’t get one this week and figures it must be coming up next week.

Sound Structure At QVM

You might wonder what this contraption at the top end of RK/RL Sheds does. It is a suspended light and sound structure which has become a distinctive feature of the Night Market. Music composed just for the Night Market emanates from the structure with a variation in sound and vibration similar to what you would get in a Dolby sound movie theatre. The music drifts in and out during the night and seems to get a good response - a nice alternative to loud block out music.

And this is how it looks in operation, and yes, it would be nice to hear it, so maybe a trip to the Night Market is in order.

Articles Worth A Read – 23/6/2019

A growing number of Australian businesses are struggling in economic downturn and retailers are on watch.

Latest Retail News – 23/6/2019

Latest Retail News – 23/6/2019
1. Cotton On launches online in India.
2. Woolworths gives online shoppers a tech gift allowing voice activated shopping lists.
3. Coles new strategy focus on sustainability.
4. French fashion house, Chanel, says it is not for sale.
5. More than half online shoppers prefer good price to good quality.
6. Victorian State Government to legislate ban on single use plastic bags.
7. 63% of shoppers prefer bricks’n’mortar shopping.
8. Activewear retailer, Lululemon, quietly closes its men only stores.
9. Plant based chicken substitute coming to Australia.
10. Tesco thinking about up-market convenience store.
11. BP now delivers food and drink from its convenience stores via Uber.
12. NZ retailer introduces edible coffee cups.

Two Business Stories Involving Retail

In the struggling world of investment funds a Sydney based hedge fund has outclassed its rivals with a couple of stunning share market bets and one of them involved retail. Their investment in a buy now/pay later company called Zip has produced very strong returns – “Services like Zip, which allow people to buy goods and pay for them in instalments, are benefiting from the shopping habits of young people, many of whom don't have credit cards, and the growing popularity of online shopping.”

And in the second news story, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have been joined by a third billionaire in the worlds most exclusive wealth club. Bernard Arnault heads LVMH which owns the likes of Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon and Dior.

QVM In The News - 23/6/2019

While Queen Victoria Market and South Melbourne market have already imposed plastic bans, Gary Zoabi, manager of Preston market, said he had ...
... by Victoria Police including Federation Square, Southbank Boulevard, Southern Cross Station, State Library of Victoria, Queen Victoria Market and ...
Don't miss the Winter Night Market at Queen Victoria Market for its street food, mulled wine, local entertainment and Christmas-themed gifts.
This weekend, the largest weekend truffle festival held outside Europe returns to the Queen Victoria Market to demystify this most mysterious of ...
Queen Victoria Market to South Melbourne Market Bike Ride
Hire a blue bike and take a foodie tour of two iconic Melbourne markets. Browse Queen Victoria Market and then ride through the CBD to South ...

Sunday 16 June 2019

Heard Under The Sheds – 16/6/2019

A proposal to introduce bonds equivalent to 3 months rent has dominated discussion in the Upper market this week with many traders surprised at the timing given extremely difficult trading conditions – see separate article.

A Trader noticed that a team of photographers taking photos of various food dishes available at the Night Market were themselves the target of dozens of tourists eager to photograph what they were doing. Our market fascinates tourists for lots of different reasons.

New stall lines have been marked out in L Shed to create a 3.3m depth behind the new SBA Containers and one previous L Shed Trader says he is already considering the move back to his old stall.

A customer was heard to ask a trader if he could help him find a particular trader. The customer had been to the Visitor Information Centre at the bottom of String Bean Alley but they were unable to help. The trader was eventually found but it should be noted that traders can ring the Information Centre (0393205822), and by taking menu option 2, be put through to the F1 Trader Hub where market staff should be able to help with stallholder locations.

The back of the String Bean Alley containers are to be decorated with vinyl panels. The vinyl may be subject to damage and Traders are being asked to keep fittings and storage boxes away from the panels so that they serve their purpose of improving the look of the trading area.

The news got around that Ronnie Z’s mushroom soup on Friday was a standout and traders quickly responded. We can confirm that it wasn’t Ronnie who started the rumour and the soup was genuinely delicious (we wouldn’t expect anything else from Ronnie). The rumour mill at QVM certainly works very quickly.

Another trader was eyeing off the storage sheds at the top of SBA for the possibility of setting up a stall with more display area, particularly ceiling height.

Apparently a trader has pulled out of SBA due to the potential damage on fragile art paper products from moisture penetration. Rain can enter containers particularly on windy days. A replacement trader has been found.

A Trader tells us that the bookshop going into SBA is the famous Mary Martin Bookshop from Southbank.

A Trader tells us of his friend who travels from suburban Melbourne to QVM most weeks just to purchase doughnuts from the American Doughnut Kitchen. Gotta love those regular customers.

A Trader gave us a link to a story about a Newsagent in suburban Sydney who sharpens knives as a sideline. He is now wondering about the possibilities for unusual sidelines for his market business. (Sidenote: There is a shop on Victoria St. near the market with a sign "Bicycle Repairs & Coffee")

Great Hidden Stories Video On Friendship

Bond Proposal Receives Strong Criticism

This week’s TRC Meeting included a proposal from management to discuss a bond for all (?) traders equivalent to 3 months rent, and the move has been strongly criticised.

The detail of the proposal is not yet available, but let us look at the concept, and maybe save further time and effort because the initial reaction from traders is that it is unreasonable and inappropriate.

Bonds traditionally are designed to protect landlords from losses occasioned by property damage and rent arrears when a tenant leaves a lease. Operators of open stands are being included in this discussion at QVM even though their tenancies generally don’t involve structures or equipment. It is difficult to damage an asphalt  floor. So presumably this is just about rent.

And it is easy to understand why we have a rent issue. When rent was paid weekly in cash there was a sort of a built in credit control system. Cashed up traders would go to the office each week and pay their rent as part of their normal market routine -  job done. Now, you don’t have to pay rent weekly and you can build up arrears (unless of course you pay by direct debit). QVM has quite rightly joined the modern cashless society but there is now a problem with too many traders in arrears.

To most traders the logical answer is to tighten up on credit control. Traders should not be allowed to get in to arrears. This rent bond is an alternative solution - make traders pay upfront in case they fall into arrears. The problem is that solution shifting from credit control to bond funding is an unfair impost on the majority of traders, and certainly unfair for those who manage their funds carefully and pay on time.

Traders want to see every one of their colleagues prosper. We know we are in tough times and we need to make special efforts to assist during the transition to better times. But creating financial difficulties for the bulk of traders because some are not meeting their commitments is not a sensible or desirable course.

Three months rent can involve significant amounts of money particularly for multiple stall holders. And, given that we are in a declared retail recession (recent NAB report), this is not the time to be parking valuable funds in a non-productive (apart from minimal interest) bank account. Traders have much better things to do with their money, and many require absolute cashflow flexibility to maximise their business efficiency. We actually have reports of new String Bean Alley tenants taking out business loans just to finance their bond obligation. Yes, that is crazy.

And please don’t argue that bonds are simply part of retailing. Bonds (certainly high ones) became popular in the excesses of the past when rents, and lease conditions were enthusiastically developed by shopping centre landlords during a time of comparative retail wealth. Those conditions definitely don’t apply today.

QVM has a rent problem. It is not just their problem. We all have a responsibility here. It is simply a matter of finding the right solution -  one that brings rent payments back in to line, and doesn’t unfairly disadvantage traders who are doing their best to manage difficult cashflow conditions.

By Greg Smith

Why Robots Will Never Replace Market Traders

The world is preoccupied with robots and the replacement of human jobs but market traders can feel secure in their unique talents they contribute to the adventure that is shopping.

A trader described one particular sale recently that might help to illustrate the point. This was more than an exchange of goods for money because during the sale process the trader was shown multiple family photos and discussed various aspects of this customers life. The customer hadn’t just come to our market for a purchase, they had come for social interaction.

Traders who are good at social interaction have an advantage. And good communication with customers doesn’t necessarily demand great language skills. All it takes is being attentive, and friendly.

Another trader talks about the families who visit the market regularly and the children who excitedly run to the toy stall or to ring the bell at the boat stall. This is more than buying goods. This is also a family outing for fun and social engagement.

A recent presentation at The Press Club included the philosophical notion that humans have progressed from labour tasks, through skilled crafts, to high level brain functions, but the next level is far more exciting - it is do with the heart. As civilisation develops data and robots for so many functions it is matters of the heart, and social interaction that will become highly sought after and market traders are in the box seat.

As Traders we need to keep improving and refreshing our offer but as we have pointed out on many occasions in the past - our ace card is social interaction with our customers and in that regard the future is bright.

By Greg Smith

Articles Worth A Read - 16/6/2019

Things Australia Needs To Do To Avoid Recession - a scary article by an academic that explains our options if we are to avoid recession in Australia -

Online Sales Could Be Starting to Plateau according to this article in The Conversation -

This NSW Newsagent sharpens knives and cuts keys which could be a pointer for any retailer struggling in today’s retail climate – diversify or perish.

Deloittes expect some relief for retailers in the second half of 2019.

Latest Retail News – 16/6/2019

Latest Retail News – 16/6/2019
1. Woolworths invests $30m in Marley Spoon home delivered food kit service.
2. Walmart introduces home delivery direct to your fridge.
3. German startup, Infarm, raises $100m to expand its in-store modular farms to grocery stores in US.
4. Wesfarmers to purchase online retailer, Catch, for $230m.
5. Amazon ready to launch 30 minute drone deliveries up to 15 kilometres.
6. NAB says retail “clearly in recession”.
7. Target Australia’s comparable sales fell 2.3% for 5 months to May.
8. Coles cuts 450 jobs and re-arranges management.
9. Bunnings will have full online offer by Christmas.
10. Topshop parent saved from closing in new deal with creditors and landlords including reduced rent.

QVM In The News - 16/6/2019

Before playing its last match, the team will spend the morning at the Queen Victoria Market, getting a taste of the largest open-air market in the ...
The doggos will be travelling from Stop 7 to the Queen Vic Market down Elizabeth Street in the CBD with their two-legged friends from 2-4pm on ...
Whether you're a truffle tragic or simply truffle-curious, the Queen Victoria Market's Truffle Melbourne Festival has truffle options for all tastes, and all ...
Part of the $450 million Munro development, the project is sited alongside the $250 million Queen Victoria Market precinct renewal in the city's CBD.
The eighth instalment of Queen Victoria Market's hugely successful Winter Night Market delivers a bigger-than-ever 13-week program this year, held ...

Thursday 13 June 2019

Significant New Delivery By QVM

QVM's announcement this week of a new online shopping and delivery service for fresh produce traders is significant not just for the service itself but for the intent to make our market better and the leadership shown.

We know that traders are responsible for their own back yards in many respects. But Traders are not great at joining together and that is not a criticism, just a reality when hundreds of time-poor small business owners are asked to act in unison.

That is where QVM can show its worth by providing a common platform for discussion, evaluation and ultimate application. And that is what it is doing here.

The concept of a fresh food delivery service is exciting. It will enable us to compete with very active competitors in the supermarket sector. We have a point(s) of difference in fresh food and ideally our delivery service will allow us to enhance the depth of our offer and maintain the excellence that customers expect of QVM.

The proposed solution will initially be introduced for fresh produce traders only, but the potential for similar services in other market categories is obvious. As one Specialty Merchandise Trader said this week – “Imagine being able to clinch the deal by telling the customer we will deliver to your home or business so you can enjoy the rest of your day."

Tuesday 11 June 2019

The Smartest Traders Get Things Wrong But…

Getting it wrong can be very healthy in business decision making but there is a difference between those who succeed and those who don’t and QVM is full of examples.

This might all sound a little confusing but it comes from an interview with Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon, in which he proposed that the smartest individuals, the people who most often get things right, were most often wrong. Sorry! - "the smartest individuals are most often wrong"???

The difference with those people is that they constantly question their decisions, are open to counter discussion and are prepared to change their mind. Compare that with those who make quick decisions, establish a rigid view, and don’t re-assess. And, yes, we all know people like that.

Keeping an open mind, taking a wider view, stepping outside the problem, actively and openly discussing opposing views, adjusting to changing circumstances, and being prepared to find the “right” answer, are all traits of successful decision-makers.

Traders at QVM can rightly be proud of their ability to make decisions. We have to make daily decisions that mainstream jobs wouldn't dream of . But we need to get it right. You could say that the people who can quickly size up a situation and make a decision are smart, but those who constantly challenge their views and actively seek the “right” answer are smarter, and most likely to succeed. 

Sunday 9 June 2019

Heard Under The Sheds - 9/6/2019

A Little Good News - the queue at the Donut Van in Queen St. on Saturday extended almost back to the Meat Hall doors.

A Little Bad News - Thursday morning, 7:30am, Meat Hall, and the north side aisle did not have one customer.

“Have a bad day” - A common greeting between traders is  “Have a good day”. But this trader decided to use some reverse psychology last Sunday. He figured nobody was getting good days at the moment so he wished all his neighbours “a bad day” hoping that would change things. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to work.

Good Night - but the first Winter Night Market came to the rescue for many participants with a moderate crowd and some good trading results.

The therapy of market friends. The importance of the friendships at QVM was raised in an article last week under the heading “This could be the single most important element in our market.” The article examined emotional support created by our relationships with fellow traders. It struck a chord with one trader who recalled a typical conversation with his wife when he gets home from the market. She doesn't ask “How was business today?” but “How was your therapy today?”.

A Trader suggests there is no single factor in retail challenges at the moment. He sees it as a series of issues that all effectively dilute traditional retailing. He is talking about strong competition particularly in fresh food, online competition, and growing traffic congestion. They each take a little bit of demand and force us to keep innovating.

Two young drunks were skylarking in J Shed early one morning this week and managed to knock down some tables that had been set up for trading. They were good-natured and set about repairing the damage and reassembling the tables - not sure how that turned out for the trader.

A Trader says one of the best feelings at the market is when you sell something for a neighbour while you are looking after their stall - something about mateship and giving is better than receiving?

Traders are asking why only two of the new SBA containers are open during the day? Whisper is that new traders are being asked to go through many hoops before they get their keys. Quality control of fit-outs is important but experienced traders know there are ways and means of getting expeditious results and maybe the newcomers need some help. Old hand, Bruce Pham, is up and running very quickly as are the 3 St.Kilda Craft Market Traders who have taken over the container on the top walkway.

Crowd In J Shed 12:53 Sunday 9th June
A number of traders commented on the big crowds in our market today (Sunday) as another festival hit Queen St. and the long weekend attracted some extra visitation. Converting the crowd to dollars however wasn’t easy with disappointing results reported throughout the Upper Market. One Trader commented “ Getting people here is important but that doesn’t guarantee sales. There are lots of things impacting on consumers right now.”

A Trader commented on the different clientele at our Night Market. He has never seen so many customers paying with their mobile phones rather than cards - a very trendy crowd in his view.