Apr 19, 2019
Basics of building an on-farm market

Last month we looked at some things to consider before building your on-farm market or roadside stand. This time, we’ll assume you’ve done your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis and looked at the zoning and various regulations and are moving forward with your market.

If we build it, will they come? This could be an expensive risk. We need to be able to make our best-informed guess on the market potential. Depending on where your market will be located, you should check with your municipality or state Department of Transportation to see if they have traffic counts on the road where the market will be located. Look at the population figures for a 5-mile and 10-mile radius of the market. We also need to know what the potential average gross revenue will be.

The University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development has a guide titled “Road Side Stand Marketing of Fruits and Vegetables” that has some useful information on market potential. Looking at existing direct-to-consumer research suggests that a majority of consumers drive less than 15- to-20 miles to purchase produce, which means we’ll have to rely on the local market for success.

The guide has an example of estimated traffic for a market on was on a highway that saw 39,470 vehicles per day. If only 2 percent of those vehicles stopped at the market, that would be 789 cars. If each vehicle had and average expenditure of $10 that would be $7,890 in sales for the day. Now we start to get a picture of the market potential.

Store layout is critical. Will there be a prep area for produce? Where will the refrigeration and cold storage be? Where will customers check out? Ultimately, we want to create a great customer experience so they will return again and again. To do that, we need to think about how our customers will move through the market. It’s a good idea to place staple or popular items in strategic places that require the customer to walk past less popular items first in hopes they make an impulse purchase. Open plan buildings allow for a flexible floor space that can easily allow for changes in the market layout.

Give plenty of consideration to your displays. Where will they be and what will they look like? We want to create various heights and lighting that will show off our products. Look at the produce section at some newer grocery stores. Chances are, the shelves are black, and lit with LED lights. This makes the color of the produce really stand out. Don’t forget cross merchandising to increase impulse purchases. Place apple slicers with the apples. Chances are items like that have a higher profit margin then the produce and will increase our gross sales.

What about the checkout? I recently spoke with a market owner who moved their check out from the middle of the floor and put it along a wall close to the exit. This freed up valuable floor space and they speed up the customer checkout. How? Traditionally we see multiple registers with multiple lines of customers. Customers try figure out which line is the smallest and run to that one. In this case, customers get into one line and there are multiple registers. Customers simply move to the next open register. This speeds up the checkout line.

We want our customers to linger as long as possible in our markets but when they want to check out, they want to do it quickly.

— Brian Moyer, VGN columnist

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