Thursday, March 17, 2011

Victoria Downtown Public Market Society

There is a movement to bring a public market to some location in downtown Victoria.   I would love to see some form of market like Granville Island or Pike Place here in Victoria, though I am not 100% certain it financially feasible.  I am also not keen on a place that would primarily be a tourist destination.

There was study done a while back that stated that it was not a feasible option to have a permanent market, but in reading that study I was not impressed with how they came up with their conclusions.   Where I see the problem is with supply.

For a permanent public market to operate five days a week for the full year requires a lot hours to be open and a lot of goods to be sold to cover the costs.   I can see some businesses that could work well within the public market setting: a bakery, a butcher, fish monger, cheese monger and a coffee shop.   What I have trouble seeing is the sale of fresh produce.    The scope and scale of what needs to be sold is beyond almost anyone within 100 miles of the city other than the Vantreights and Michells.

For a market stall to work, you would need to sell at least $500 of produce per day every day.   At the level it is not likely to be sustainable because there is not enough of a margin to make it work.   Realistically you need to move something like $1000 per day.   When I ran a market stall at the Whistler Farmer's Market I needed to gross more than $500 to make anything on the day and I needed to be closer to $1000 to make a decent amount of money.

Having sold at a major farmer's market and visited the big ones in Vancouver, I look at the 'star' markets in this region and see the gap between what is on offer and what needs to be offer to make them truly viable farmer's markets.  

Moss Street Market  - even with the very high prices for the produce, the volumes people are selling is very low and I can not make the math work in my head for how they would make money.

Sidney Market - I have run a stall there for a friend a few times and I am amazed at the size of the crowd.  I am also amazed that very few people shop for food there.    There are only a small number of stalls that sell produce and they do seem busy.   I was at a stall selling a very good tomato sauce and it did not move at the scale it should for a crowd of the size that is there.

If I were looking to create the market, I would get a number of local bakeries, high end food stores, fish mongers and butchers to commit to taking a space.   I would want to see these stable businesses in place and then figure out how to get the produce people in.   The problem with any permanent market space is that it will be hard to scale up and down based on the seasons.

I hope the public market comes, but I am not expecting it anytime soon.
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