Having Sudbury's Market Square open Fridays in the summer before campers head out of town is one of the ideas being considered to boost sales.
City councillors reviewed a report Tuesday on the Market's first season at its new location at the former CP Rail station on Elgin Street. Despite opening almost three weeks later than in 2012, and having four fewer weekends to sell, many vendors reported improved sales, particularly on Saturdays, when many sold all their merchandise.
Renovations of the new location weren't complete in time for the 2013, which meant vendors set up outside the station in stalls covered by canopies. A staff report found that vendors whose stalls faced the road enjoyed stronger sales than everyone else.
However, traffic dropped considerably on Sundays, prompting some city councillors to suggest the switch to Fridays.
“I've thought for a number of years that having the Market open on a Friday afternoon before everybody goes to camp might be really good, before everybody goes to camp,” said Ward 10 Coun. Frances Caldarelli. “A lot of people are gone on Saturday and Sunday.”
Caldarelli said she went nearly every Saturday last summer and liked the new layout, although some “tweaking” was needed.
“The parking is terribly awkward,” she said, and there weren't enough handicapped parking spaces.
Greater Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk said she likes the idea of a Friday market.
“That's something I've long been a champion of, because, historically, Sundays have been low days,” Matichuk said. That being said, I think it's time that the (Downtown Market Working Group) comes back with some recommendations. I think they can do it.”
Ward 7 Coun. Dave Kilgour, a member of the working group, said they're anxious to get started finding ways to improve things for 2014.
“Looking at Fridays is something that can be done,” Kilgour said. “I'm sure we're going to make things better.”
In total, Saturday sales increased 7.3 per cent, with average traffic reaching 591, compared to 551 in 2012. Sunday traffic, however, dropped to an average of 180 visitors, compared to 228 last year, when the market operated at its former location further up on Elgin Street.
A total of 38 vendors paid rent at the Market this year, with 14 of them renting for the full season. The facility can accommodate 26 vendors at any one time each season, which ran until Oct. 27.
A survey of 24 vendors found that half saw sales increase or stay the same compared to 2013, five reported a drop in sales, while seven were first-time vendors.
“Veteran vendors noted that the new market has generated a new consumer demographic, specifically attracting more youth and young families,” says a staff report on the Market's first year at its new location. “In addition to their improved traffic numbers year-over-year, several return vendors noted better sales in 2013 as compared to those of the former Market Square site.
“Based on this information, nearly half of the vendors interviewed were committed to returning in 2014 before the end of the 2013 season.”
More than half of the vendors had average daily sales of at least $500; 13 per cent had sales between $1,000 and $2,499, while eight per cent had sales of between $2,500 and $5,000 on an average day. To increase traffic, city staff organized entertainment and other activities on 30 days of the 38-day season.
Other highlights of the report:
While the outdoors stalls were popular with consumers, they were much more vulnerable to the weather, with a big drop in customers whenever it rained. Vendors weren't happy having to sell in the rain, either.
The most popular item at the Market was fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Half of the customers were regular visitors, with 40 per cent spending more than $30 each visit.
Many vendors sold out of produce by early Sunday, limiting customer selection.
Twelve vendors said increased protection from the weather was key, 11 said the entertainment events were a great way to draw in crowds, six suggested operating on Saturdays only, while five wanted to move the entire Market indoors.
Offering a bigger range of merchandise was also a priority for vendors, who suggested offering a special rental rate for first-time sellers.
There was a big drop in attendance after Thanksgiving, with the daily average dropping to about 100 visitors.