Economy and Gas Prices and effect on Markets

jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)April 29, 2008

Is anyone worried, bothered by, or concerned about how the economy will effect their markets?

I have been thinking about this for a while. I keep coming back to the same thing, Everyone has to EAT! I do not think I will sell as much Jelly this year, as some may say it is a luxury. That doesn't mean I won't try to sell it. I know I am going to have to raise my prices, but I think everyone expects that.

With the price of fuel so high, I figure I will be spending close to $75-100 a week in fuel to get to my markets. I drive to three markets about 45 miles away and the big one in my hometown. I am thinking I am going to increase my prices on my produce, but how much! Pricing is a very touchy subject.

What do others think?

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I've got lots of time to write about this subject because I am NOT selling this year - mostly a side effect of last years drought and the drought that is supposed to happen this year, though it has been raining pretty good here lately.

I grow and sell ornamental plants and herbs from my home garden and I only sold at one farmer's market about 50 miles away last year. I live and garden inner city. There is one much larger market nearby but it is really a re-sellers market and I cannot compete with the prices for plants (in the spring they will have over 30 plant vendors!!) and it is difficult to get a space.

Because of the high gas prices I imagine plenty of shoppers will NOT be driving too far to shop - which could be a good thing for vendors. But because of higher prices across the board most people will have less disposable income so there won't be a lot of experimenting with new veggies or fruits. But then - with all the stress and pressure on the wallet, I guess plenty of people will want the "fun" shopping experience you can only get at an outdoor market.

The charm of the small market I sold at last year is that it's set up in a downtown parking lot with plenty of shops and galleries around and neighborhoods within walking distance - which is where most of the customers come from. But in order to succeed (its a relatively new market) it really needs more customers and with gas getting higher I worry that people further away are just not going to make the effort to drive that far to shop.

Personally I believe that in order to make farmers markets successful you need plenty of them. They need to appear at convenient locations in every small town so that people get used to shopping at them. I also believe that only a section of the population wishes to walk around outside and shop in the open air - no matter what you do, some people would just rather shop at the grocery store or the mall (shudder).

This area just came through an extreme drought where city drinking water was measured in days, not months, and yet plenty of people are out shopping for plants this spring. Garden centers are full, the farmers market vendors report good sales - legally we are only allowed to water once each week. I just couldn't wrap my head around selling something to people that will probably fail once the rains stop, the heat sets in and outdoor watering is restricted again. Besides most of my spring crop looked pretty awful. So I miss the extra money but not the extra work - and I worry about what direction to take for the future.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 11:04AM
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I dont look for a down spending season for food. I think it will be a good year. I grow veggies and perennials and will raise prices some due to higher expenses, everyone will be expecting to pay a bit more. I dont think I need to raise prices due to my input costs, not really. I also breed ornamental pheasants and poultry and the prices we are receiving at auctions are way above past years, there are plenty of folks willing to pay super premium for what they want.

One thing I have noiced for a long time is that items which are not really needed always sell and with little hassle, its those essentials people want to check prices on., so who knows? The same sweet onions might bring 50 cents at the market but 75 cents at the auction??

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 10:50PM
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A marketer told me once that many shoppers have two pockets - one for essentials and one for entertainment. Fancifowl is right. Some won't quibble over a $50 concert ticket, but think milk should be 50 cents.

Markets can use promotion ideas mentioning shorter drives. Things like that are reminders to shoppers that they might find goodies within a 20 minute walk (if townies) or 15 miles from outskirts. These are good ideas whether fuel is $3.56 or $1.56. A couple years ago I found a receipt for gasoline at 32.9 cents. One of the kids read it as $3.29 -they had no point of reference. 'Course I was making $55/week then. It's relative.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 7:14PM
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Miss_Mudcat(SE Indiana z5)

Am I worried? NO.

Am I bothered? YES. We could be drilling in Alaska and enjoying lower fuel prices instead of making those who hate us richer and richer.

Will the economy affect my market? Well... I chose not to attend one market this season that is 80 miles away due to gas prices. It's a great market and I am going to miss it, but in a positive light, I will be attending two new local markets this season. So, the economy actually has pressed me to make wiser business decisions, which can only be beneficial in the long run. So far, people are still coming to market, but it is early. Time will tell.

Best wishes for a prosperous season!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 4:08PM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

We just had a big garden fair in our town and from most of the vendors I talked to (including me) sales were down on most items. Some of the vendors were down $2000 in sales (one of the big sellers)--We were down $500 from last year. Veggie plants are still selling well though due to our weird weather this year. First cold and rainy and now hot and rainy.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 8:20PM
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