Monday, 12 September 2011

Establishing the Right "Mix"

One of the questions I am often asked by both customers and vendors alike is how we decide which vendors to accept as part of our market.

Our vendor decisions are made by considering a number of criteria, some of which are mandated, some of which are recommended and others that are part of our own vision for the SWEFM and our communities.

The 80/20 Rule

When we receive an vendor's application,  we first have to determine if they conform to our 80.20 rule.  As an Alberta Approved Farmers' Market, we have a regulation that stipulations that 80% of all our vendors (including concessions) must sell Alberta products which "they, an immediate family member, a direct staff member or a member of a producer-owned cooperative of their staff have made, baked, or grown." 

While we do have an allocation for up to 20% of our market to include resellers or out of province vendors, we do try as much as possible to favour Albertan businesses, particularly those from the Edmonton area.  We are proud of the fact that over 90% of our market is comprised of locally owned, Alberta businesses!  In fact, the only out of province retailers we allow are BC Fruit vendors and/or other products that are not readily available in our province.

Franchises, resellers and Direct Selling Companies

While many Farmers' Markets do allow for Resellers or other direct-sales style companies like Epicure, Stella and Dot and Tupperware, the SWEFM Board feels that the vision of our Farmers' Market is best served by focusing exclusively on local independantly-owned small businesses and farms.  While we absolutely recognize the value of franchise and resale based companies, we truly want to highlight the unique products that are being manufactured here in Alberta by Albertan entrepreneurs and feel that the best way to do that is by ensuring that they are able to be the primary focus of our operation. This is also the best way to support our local economic growth, which is one of our major objectives as an organization.  For this reason, you will find very limited franchises in our market, and only those that are locally based.

Market Mix
It is very important to us that we offer a variety of vendors to make sure that we are meeting the needs of all of our customers!  Here is the breakdown that is recommended by the Department of Agriculture. We try to stay as true to this as possible:
  • 30% - Agricultural products
  • 25% - Non-agricultural food products/value-added products
  • 25% - Craft and artisan products & other non-food homemade and handcrafted products
  • 20% - Other
Sometimes, to make sure that we have a nice, full market, we will deviate from this percentages.  However, we do always make it a point to ensure that we have an adequate amount of produce/fruit, and other food options available. 

Quality Over Quantity

As a new start-up, it was difficult to resist the urge to universally accept every application that came our way. Certainly, we wanted to make sure that we had sufficient vendors to ensure that we were busy and sustainable for our season. However, ensuring that we also had high quality vendors was the main priority.  We know that our patrons insist upon having only the highest quality, freshest, most unique products in the City and we were committed to delivering on this promise.  For that reason, we chose our vendors very carefully and only after having reviewed all their products. 

Building an attractive, full and diverse market is no small feat! After our first season, we are proud of the 70+ vendors who joined our project and hope to see them (and many others!) back again next year. 

As always, we welcome feedback from our patrons.  Is there anyone or anything you would love to see in our market?

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