Dec 23, 2019
Take basics steps toward a successful market

What distinguishes a successful farm market from a mediocre one? Some simple management practices can be the difference between a profitable market and a marginal one. The following “seven steps to success” were observed by Robert L. Bull from the University of Delaware Ag Extension in his publication “The Modern Farm Roadside Market” some 60 years ago and they still hold true today, which is why I find it surprising when I see some markets fail to follow one or more of these steps.

1. Promotion

Does your market have good signage and branding? Your market should have a logo that can, and should, be on everything from the signs outside of the market to the product pricing signs to the hats and/or T-shirts worn by the staff. If you can have a market sign outside along the road, make sure it can be seen 1,200 feet away by someone driving along the road where your market is located. This can increase your chances of someone stopping at the market as much as 50%.

2. Paint

No matter how clean your market may be, it won’t appear so to your customers if they are seeing dull or cracked and peeling paint. Fresh coat of paint is associated with “clean” and “quality.” Try to stay away from dull and dark colors for your walls and trim and lean towards lighter colors.

3. Parking

Adequate parking is often overlooked. Does your market have the right number of parking spaces to match the square footage of the market? One rule of thumb is to have five parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of retail space.

Also, are you meeting Americans With Disabilities Act requirements? As of 2018, for the first 100 total spots, every 25 spots must have a corresponding handicap spot. As the total spots increase, the portion required for handicap spots decreases. From 101 to 150 spots requires a fifth handicap space, and from 151 to 200 requires a sixth.

4. Price

Products should have clear price signs with good handwriting. Signs should be consistent in appearance and ideally have your logo on them. Don’t forget to use “feature – benefits” in your signage. The apple industry does this well. For example, the feature could be Granny Smith apples and the benefits would be “good for baking.”

Photo: Brian Moyer

5. Personality

According to Robert Null’s article, markets have two kinds of personalities. One is the personality of the staff and two, the personality of the market itself. The overall appearance of the market, the knowledge and attentiveness of the staff can and will project a unique shopping experience that will keep your customers coming back. The market’s personality can be measured in the things that make it unique. Effective branding, good displays, interesting layout, cheerful staff all give the market its personality.

6. Packaging

Pay attention to how your products are offered in your market. Again, clean, well-lit displays with clean packaging will be much more enticing along with product rotation so your produce is always fresh.

7. Pest Control

It’s understood, an open-air roadside stand or even a market building is a challenge for controlling pests such as insects. However, we need to view this from our customers eyes. Also, controlling insects can help in reducing shrinkage. There are many inexpensive options if you look for them. I always seem to see a new technique every year on our retail farm market bus tour. Some markets use small containers of apple cider vinegar near their fruit displays to control fruit flies. One market uses a DustBuster attached to a tube and would regularly patrol the market sucking up yellow jackets that were attracted to their peaches.

These steps may seem basic and obvious which also explains why they can be easily overlooked. Just like in baseball, paying attention to the fundamentals just might get you to the World Series.

— Brian Moyer, VGN columnist


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