Is competition perceived or real?
While the number of markets has increased some, argue that it puts too much pressure on the current vendors. Is this competition driving some farms out of business? Let’s look at one scenario and ask the “what if” questions before we knee jerk into false action.
Let’s say that in small town U.S.A. there are identical farms. Let’s say they both used the same growing method and grew the same variety of carrot, tomato, and lettuce and it is the only thing they will bring to the market this season. Let’s also pretend they have the same growing space and yields. These two farmers must be in competition.
What competitive advantages will there be? Price wars where each will offer lower and lower prices? Advertising to everyone in town? Out sampling each other? This can lead to some Hatfield & McCoy silliness quick.
How do two farms in one town with identical products make it?
The first farmer has been at this market for years. Their grandparents sold here, and they have always been a market staple. They have a following of the same clients, week after week. They live happily, nothing fancy, and have a good life.
The second farmer is new in town but has growing experience and again, can deliver the same quality & quantity of carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce.
Think of all of the possible scenarios that can happen. What have you heard, said, or felt when a new vendor arrives in your area. How was it when you were the new person?
Do the price wars, name calling, mistrust, or negative emotions do anybody any good? Would that negativity leach into the market client’s mind? Would a series of uncomfortable situations cause people to seek produce elsewhere?
What if competition raised the level of value at the market?
What if instead of price wars, the clients were asked how they could be better served. What if small changes were made to fulfill their needs? What if when one farmer ran out of carrots, they suggested meeting the new farmer? What if the new farmer, out of necessity, not advertised, but marketed his farm to an entirely new group of people who were not currently coming to the market. What if the people who had visited the market for years were now rubbing elbows with first-time market shoppers increasing the dollar amount being spent to both vendors? What if demand came in ways that selling out was the norm and the two farmers got together to discuss
What if demand came in ways that selling out was the norm and the two farmers got together to discuss supply and demand and went up on their prices together. Imagine the shock as people didn’t make the price increase an issue because they were not shopping price. The two farmers realized people shopped familiarity, trust, transparency, local, and quality over big box mysteries. Then they realized the people who came to market looking
Then they realized the people who came to market looking for a bargain disappeared to the big boxes because they had been shopping price and not familiarity all along. All of a sudden the rising tide raised all boats. It was a record year for both farmers, and they were able to expand over the winter. Now the two farmers, strangers at the beginning of summer, got together. One decided to plant melons, and the other decided to plant cucumbers. Now the market begins to diversify.
The clients who came to the market last year will return knowing the market is a safe, friendly, community supporting each other instead of a place to bargain shop their farming neighbors out of business. Some even were inspired to start a small strawberry patch and go to market too. The market continues to grow.
Or, the two farmers could have called each other names, not reached out to new clients or listened to the ones they had, and priced each other out of the market itself. What if they blamed each other for crowding the market?
Competition is real, how you react to it is the difference in a negative market atmosphere or one of growth for all. There will always be both kinds of people at the market, which one you choose to be will dictate the clients you attract.