We are a group of retail food traders (see Who We Are) and we have waited years for a retail food market in Dublin. We have direct experience of food markets, both indoor and outdoor, public and private and have visited many markets across the World, understanding their pros and cons.
Below we have listed some of our aspirations and ideas that we think could make for a successful market over time.
BE FLEXIBLE AND CREATIVE
The nature of markets make them a work in progress. They are not predictable projects. Markets evolve, they are organic and change over time. Our collective public understanding of markets has also shifted substantially over the years.
The location of the Fruit and Vegetable Market in Smithfield unlike say the Cork or Galway markets, is off the beaten track and it will take time for footfall to build up. And it is a vast space that may feel very empty until it fills up and gains momentum.
To build momentum it will need to be creatively managed, with a strong core of traders and also accommodating one off events, weekly or monthly markets and attempt to bring the diversity of Dublin through the doors.
RETAIL FOOD MARKET
We believe the core of the market should be a quality retail food market with a mix of fixed and casual food traders. The stalls must be affordable to small to medium business enterprise and accessible to different ethnic groups. These food traders would include, among others, butchers, fishmongers, cheese sellers, charcuterie, fruit and vegetable sellers, dry food stores, spice sellers, coffee roasteries.
Wholesale and retail are not mutually exclusive and we think that with careful consideration of the space, that wholesalers can retail at certain times when the forklifts are not in operation. We also see the opportunity for wholesale clients also buying from stalls in the retail market. This is our experience in other markets.
EAT IN & TAKE OUT FOOD STALLS
A quota of space should be allocated for ready to serve meals, eat in or take away with seating area. The quota for these type of stalls should be strict as many other markets get overwhelmed with these type of stalls and the market becomes an eatery. It should be debated whether this type of stalls are in a separate area of the market as retail and food to go together can cause problems
We see the need for a section of the market to be a flexible space, open to a variety of pop-up, seasonal, monthly or night markets that are not exclusively food.
MARKET VALUES - RELEVANT, DYNAMIC, INNOVATIVE
RELEVANT - We aspire that this would be a market accessible to everyone living in Dublin. We see Dublin people doing their weekly food shopping for their fresh food. We see different ethnic groups in Dublin having stalls and shopping here. We see tourists visiting and dining at the market to see Dublin people shopping there. We do not see this as a market primarily catering to tourists. Over tourism is a problem that faces The Borough Market in London and La Boqueria in Barcelona, we need to learn from the mistakes of these markets. If the local is happy the tourist is happy.
We see the market being a mix of fixed stalls and open space. In the open space there would be temporary or casual stalls in the way of seasonal and pop-up markets. This would mean every week there would be a different element to the market - a farmers market on a Saturday, a flea market on a Sunday, a flower market in Summer etc. This space could also be used by cultural, corporate and community events - providing an additional source of revenue. George’s Market in Belfast hosts such events as Chinese New Year, weddings and photoshoots for example.
INNOVATIVE - The stalls need to be affordable to start-ups businesses as well as to small and medium enterprise.
Stall fees should be very affordable and the market should be self financing when it is working at full capacity. We suggest that the excellent stall costs in Cork should be adopted as the market in Cork is established and in a far better commercial location relative to the two cities. It is hard to see why DCC would need to take any other view. It is important that it is recognised that this is not a normal commercial activity and that private markets have not been able to exist in the city centre due to the rent bubble in Dublin in recent years.
Market managers are critical, and good ones are rare. Dublin City Council must put great effort into recruiting the required people skills and experience to guide this project. The ideal candidate will have no problem relating to traders and good knowledge of the food industry as well as markets.
An online dimension to the market should be considered with a possible online shop and delivery service. These are ideas already being trialled in other markets. Social media integration, managed by competent third party companies could be incorporated.