U or I? The shape of your market

by Tom Roberts (article from 1990’s Selling Outdoors)

Larger markets, those with more than six or eight members regularly attending, often abandon the straight line style setup of smaller markets. Instead, they adopt a double line or “U” shape, where the marketers set up in two lines with displays facing one another. Orono and Camden are examples of U-shaped markets.

This accomplishes several things at once. It allows setup in a more compact areas which might not be big enough for all members to stretch out in a line. It means customers can see more of the market at one time, and don’t have to walk so far from one end to the other. It gives a more closed sense to the market, and works to keep vehicular traffic away from the customer walking area.

Sometimes smaller markets will also want to set up with displays facing one another and a customer walkway in between. This closes off the customer walkway to cars, providing a safer shopping environment. But if only two or three members attend market, this effect is considerably diminished.

A disadvantage to a double line may be that what is displayed to passing traffic is simply the front of the market vehicles instead of the market displays themselves.

Several larger markets (Brewer comes to mind) maintain the long-line approach, primarily for two reasons. One is that they are adjacent to Wilson Street so their long display shows off the market well to passing traffic. The other is that they have a long gradually curved space to set up in that can accommodate many members at once.

Traffic cones are also a helpful tool at market. They can prevent customers from parking in market spaces that will soon be wanted by a late arriving member. They can make traffic keeps its distance from the shopping area. And their presence, recognized by all, imparts a sense of security for parents shopping with their children. Real traffic cones are what’s wanted. They are made of bright orange rubber, stand about eighteen inches tall and nest well for storage. They cost about ten dollars apiece, last for years, and can take being driven over time and again.

About Tom Roberts

When I started attending the Brewer Farmers’ Market back in August of 1983, my sole concern was being able to sell the produce my farm was growing at a good price. After attending market for a year or two, I began to realize that how the market was organized had a great impact on my sales. And how the market was organized also influenced how it made decisions about dues, new members, what could be sold at market, and how it promoted itself—and this, too, had an impact on my sales. So I got involved in the market’s steering committee and began to understand how various market members thought the market should operate. Some wanted a market czar, some wanted everyone to be allowed to do their own thing. But everyone seemed to agree that if the market as a whole did well, then so did they.