Following on the success of the Market Shift Charrette, Scadding Court hired us, through the Working Habitat, to perform a review of Market 707 and develop a business and marketing strategy for the market going forward.
At the time, Market 707, Toronto’s first shipping container market, had been open for just under 2 years and a formal review of its progress had yet to be done. Developed as a market to expand opportunities for local micro-entrepreneurs, offer affordable retail spaces and spur local economic development, the Market had been heralded as a major success but did not have direct statistics or any established evaluation methods. In addition, Scadding Court had been considering and expansion of the market and felt that a review would be necessary to move forward.
We setup a process to review the market from the perspective of all key stakeholders – customers, market vendors and Scadding staff. We interviewed key Scadding Court staff and all 12 existing vendors at the time. We conducted a customer satisfaction survey and asked customers to provide feedback on the market. We also asked vendors to track their sales stats for a month to detect sales trends. For those vendors who were doing better than the others, we conducted secondary interviews to determine if there were specific techniques or lessons that could be learned from their experiences.
What we learned was a wealth of knowledge around micro-enterprises, the key factors to their success, sales trends, what to look out for when creating community markets and areas for improvement. For example, it became clear to us early on that part of the markets success comes from the community of vendors themselves. Having a supportive environment of other small vendors willing to help each other out for the benefit of the market as a whole helps each individual business succeed and create a self-reinforcing culture of sharing and learning. Size and scale is also an important factor and the clustering of a series of businesses in the same industry (in this case food service) makes it easier to attract customers and advertise.
Our final report analyzed these factors and also provided a series of recommendations and strategies on improving marketing, vendor business training as well as Market 707 operating practices. We also helped update Scadding’s Container Market Developers Manual (now called the Business Out of the Box Toolkit), created new business processes for Scadding in vendor selection and on-boarding and developed a new Vendor’s Toolkit to give vendors more info on how to run a more successful business.
The client was very satisfied with the end result and ended up incorporating many of our recommendations into the operation of Market 707. The Market itself continues to thrive and expand – there are currently 18 vendors and more containers are being ordered to build a container “mall” later in 2014. The story of the Market is by no means finished and it continues to be one of the best examples of the how micro-enterprise markets can make a difference for local economies and micro-entrepreneurs in Toronto.
- Business Out of the Box Toolkit (sections contributed by Howard Tam & the Working Habitat)
- How Shipping Containers have Revamped This Toronto Street (Globe and Mail Video with Howard Tam – October 22 2013)