By David O’Neil

Despite all the news about economic globalization covering the planet with big box stores, public markets are undergoing a sweeping renaissance as people around the world strive to rebuild local economies and keep human connections flourishing.

People love markets for so many reasons, yet in all our surveys asking people why they use markets, the one that always shows up on top is the experience: seeing other people, opportunities for impromptu conversations, the unexpected sensory delights. This is what draws people back, again and again, to their favorite markets. But these qualities of spontaneity and sociability don’t just happen; a great market must be carefully planned as a public gathering place and managed within a sustainable business structure.

Underlying all PPS’s work is the “Power of 10″–the idea that at least ten focal points are necessary to make a great place, with each of those areas offering ten things to do. Public spaces exhibiting the Power of 10 offer the depth, meaning and visceral connections that create satisfying everyday experiences. This principle has a strong effect when applied to public markets, and lends them a competitive advantage over many other commercial forms. It is interesting to note that many innovations which have proven successful at public market–connecting with local farmers and producers, adding public seating, rebuilding a sense of community, adapting to site specific needs–are now being copied by savvy retailers such as Whole Foods.

Much can be learned about what makes places great by observing successful markets – and vice versa. PPS has worked on markets all over the world and carefully studied the classic elements that go into creating successful markets or reviving old ones. And we’ve found that much of what makes a great market is identical to what makes a great public space. Drawing on this experience, let’s look at how the Power of 10 works.

The ten qualities of a successful market include:

  1. Right vendor
  2. Right location
  3. Right mix
  4. Right mission
  5. Right public spaces
  6. Right connections
  7. Right economics
  8. Right promotion
  9. Right value
  10. Right management

Taking the Power of 10 to the next level, here are 10 qualities within each of these:

Vendors

The art of selling is second nature to Amish families from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Early practitioners of sustainable agriculture, most Amish children learn to sell at roadside stands or markets from their parents. At Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market, the Amish are a cherished presence and well patronized.

The art of selling is second nature to Amish families from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Early practitioners of sustainable agriculture, most Amish children learn to sell at roadside stands or markets from their parents. At Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, the Amish are a cherished presence and well patronized.

  • Quality (second most popular reason people enjoy markets, after the experience)
  • Appearance (easy to approach)
  • Cleanliness
  • Merchandising (presentation of product must be informative and distinctive)
  • Innovation (keeps customers coming back)
  • Competitive (customers must continually be won back by beating the competition with a superior choice)
  • Locality (customers feel connected when they see other community members)
  • Observes the 3 Second Rule (three seconds are all you get to hook a new customer)
  • Attractiveness (best achieved through displays that are simple, abundant and artistic)
  • Service (good service makes people happy)

Location

The Steps of  Iglesia Santo Tomás on market day | Many markets around  the world still operate in cathedral squares and other sacred locations. Guatemala's Chichicastenango market sets up in front of the cathedral to provide the devout with a convenient location to take care of both earthly and spiritual needs.

The steps of Iglesia Santo Tomás on market day | Many markets around the world still operate in cathedral squares and other sacred locations. Guatemala’s Chichicastenango market sets up in front of the cathedral to provide the devout with a convenient location to take care of both earthly and spiritual needs.

  • Visibility
  • Accessibility
  • Memorable
  • Flow (easy to navigate and orient yourself)
  • Well-managed parking (requires management to ensure regular turnover)
  • Nearby amenities (restaurants, retail, housing, transit, office workers in the neighborhood)
  • Confluence (places where people naturally come together)
  • Inclusiveness (market should welcome everyone and not be any one group’s ‘turf’)
  • Scale (size should feel appropriate for the place)
  • Spin-off opportunities (market activity should provide valuable customer base for neighboring businesses)

Mix

China's fabled Sunday Market in Kashgar is the gathering place for over a hundred thousand eager hagglers every week. In recent years, the Chinese government has spent over $1 billion building and improving markets.

China’s fabled Sunday Market in Kashgar is the gathering place for over a hundred thousand eager hagglers every week. In recent years, the Chinese government has spent over $1 billion building and improving markets.

  • Internal competition (builds quality, variety, and keeps prices reasonable)
  • Owner operated (customers like dealing with the boss)
  • Choice and selection (people love to comparison shop)
  • Multiple price scales and quality levels (serves multiple tastes and incomes)
  • Passionate vendors (vendors who love markets as a way of life)
  • Innovative (keeps the customer engaged)
  • Local (consumer demand for local products is booming)
  • Balance (classic merchandise but always a bit of the new)
  • Clarity (stall by stall specialization works best)
  • Turnover (eliminate things that don’t work)

Mission

Boise

In October 2014, after two years of rebuilding, recruiting, and planning, the Boise International Market (BIM) opened on the site of a once-dilapidated and partially burnt down strip mall in the “Bench” neighborhood of Treasure Valley. The Market began as an incubator program for small businesses, focusing in particular on Boise’s large refugee and immigrant population. Today, only a few months since opening its doors, the site has 27 vendors and restaurants selling food, clothing, and other products from all over the world.

 

  • Intention (set clear goals)
  • Creates new opportunities (provide entrepreneurs low-cost entry into retailing)
  • Self-sustaining (operational self sufficiency is crucial)
  • Nurturing vendors (support for farmers, immigrants, fledgling entrepreneurs)
  • Promotes socialization
  • Supports community health (healthy food at low prices)
  • Local culture (the town square for a community)
  • Creates new models  (self-determination for local economies)
  • Makes people happy

Public Spaces

Chicago's Daley Plaza is transformed into in open air market every Thursday during the growing season.

Chicago’s Daley Plaza is transformed into in open air market every Thursday during the growing season.

  • Sense of entry (the market as oasis)
  • Seating (an opportunity for rest, chit-chat, snacking)
  • Maintenance (key to ongoing public enjoyment)
  • Comfort (provides seasonally-appropriate shade, heat, or light)
  • Attractions (offers things to look at, such as other people and different retail activity)
  • Art (aesthetic connection to a place)
  • Formal and informal qualities (do not over program or over design)
  • Welcoming (make sure everyone feels at ease)
  • Flexibility (able to sustain many activities)

Connections

Montreal has a thriving system of public markets throughout the city. Historic market halls have been renovated and new open-air markets are being located adjacent to Metro stops.

Montreal has a thriving system of public markets throughout the city. Historic market halls have been renovated and new open-air markets are being located adjacent to Metro stops.

  • Reflects community (a symbol of community identity)
  • Partnerships (involve other organizations whose mission overlaps with the market)
  • Accessibility (easy to get to by car, foot, and public transportation)
  • Neighborhood links  (brings different communities together)
  • Bike trails/greenways (we’ll be seeing more and more of this)
  • Retail opportunity (mutual benefit with nearby stores)
  • Housing (a built-in customer base)
  • Local economy (use the market as a hub for local revitalization)
  • Sense of giving back (demonstrate how market strengthens local connections)
  • Cross-cultural (great venue for sharing foods, ideas, and stories)

Economics

Pike Place Market is visited by more people in downtown Seattle than sporting and entertainment events combined. The market is self sustaining and has just completed an economic impact study that will be used to launch a major capital campaign.

Pike Place Market is visited by more people in downtown Seattle than sporting and entertainment events combined. The market is self sustaining and has just completed an economic impact study that will be used to launch a major capital campaign.

  • Sustainable foundation (be realistic about financial underpinnings)
  • Fundraising (try to “bury” capital costs and open debt free)
  • Fair rents (create a new level of affordable business opportunity)
  • Supports community health (helps to justify public investment)
  • Spin-off (markets are natural incubators for small businesses)
  • Job creation
  • Encourages investments (markets boost value of surrounding real estate)
  • Keeps $ local (stems the flow of local dollars to out-of-town corporations)
  • Hand-to-hand economy (endangered in a cashless society)
  • Transparent/non-exploitative (accountability in all operations)

Promotion

Detroit’s Eastern Market, one of the greatest classic market districts left in the United States, promotes Flower Day to colorfully kick off its spring season. The event is the market’s largest annual weekend drawing more than 100,000 shoppers.

Detroit’s Eastern Market, one of the greatest classic market districts left in the United States, promotes Flower Day to colorfully kick off its spring season. The event is the market’s largest annual weekend drawing more than 100,000 shoppers.

  • Stretch the dollar (don’t overspend on expensive advertising)
  • Events/demos (customers love them)
  • Public relations (better than advertising)
  • Promotion and press releases (stamps are cheap)
  • Market image (keep it clear, compelling and consistent)
  • Partners (great venue for other groups with overlapping missions)
  • Education opportunities (agriculture, health, and community)
  • Builds local value
  • Community connections (provides a forum for interaction)
  • Sponsorships/fundraisers (encourage funders and civic leaders to support the market)

Value

Cathedral Square, Milwaukee WI. Small town markets have reappeared in town squares across America matching local farmers with city folk who are hungry for quality products as much as the social gathering.

Cathedral Square, Milwaukee WI. Small town markets have reappeared in town squares across America matching local farmers with city folk who are hungry for quality products as much as the social gathering.

  • Quality products
  • Quality experience
  • Boosts local economy
  • Creates local jobs
  • Increases Social capital (shared experiences build community)
  • Affirms a sense of place
  • Dividend (help save a farm when you buy that tomato)
  • Enhances psychic well-being (a fun way to feel good)
  • Supports local food systems
  • Sense of community ownership (it’s our market)

Management

After completing a multi-million dollar renovation of its historic Findlay Market, the City of Cincinnati assigned management duties to a non-profit corporation formed specifically to operate the market with the mission of balancing entrepreneurship and social goals. Many cities are transferring market management to such entities.

  • Fair
  • Flexible
  • Firm
  • Open minded
  • Forward looking (the art of planning)
  • Promotion-minded (promote the market at every opportunity)
  • Outreach (a diverse market is a strong market)
  • Capitalizes on niche opportunities
  • Maintains good relations (with vendors and customers)
  • Effective behind the scenes (whatever it takes to get the job done)
  • Front of the house (market managers are hosts as well, both for vendors and customers)

Ten Qualities of Successful Public Markets was last modified: April 28th, 2015 by Project for Public Spaces