Consistency on the market floor

There’s a truism among market agents: ‘Product is power’. The more product and variety you have on your floor, the more buyers you can attract and the better you can do for your producers.

But there is another side to the coin…

Recently, I paid an early morning visit to the Tshwane Market. On entering the vegetable hall, my first reaction was: “Wow! It looks fabulous.”

But immediately thereafter, I found myself thinking: “How on earth are they going to sell all this produce?” The hall was not simply overstocked, it was bursting at the seams. It looked wonderful aesthetically, but was that enough to help sales?

The answer, it seemed, was ‘no’. I would have thought buyers would be there in their hordes, but they were simply not present in the numbers I would have expected. This situation is fairly common on our markets at this time of year when the seasons overlap, with winter production being phased out while summer production is coming in.

One or two of the veteran market agents remarked that they had not seen quantity and prices this poor for a good few years.

Selling techniques
Most buyers on the floor were playing ‘cat and mouse’ games with the agents. Because they could pick and choose at will, they were ‘shopping around’ much more and the hapless salespeople had to be really outstanding to convince the buyer to make a purchase.

I stood aside and observed a number of encounters. It was fascinating to see the techniques and styles at play between agent and buyer. Inevitably the interaction taking place between the two would not be found in any textbooks on sales or customer relations, but it sold fruit and veggies!

The effort put in

As I moved around the sales floor, I wished that more farmers could see a market when it’s over-stocked and the effort put in by the salespeople to sell the products.

Perhaps then they would be more understanding and appreciate that the secret of successful marketing through a fresh produce commission market is consistency, so that you can build your averages. Fresh produce marketing is not for sissies.