setting prices at market

little_minnie(zone 4a)August 23, 2012

There was some talk by committee members of needing to guide higher prices at market. The newbies especially are selling too low. I did that too a few years ago. Then you find out you won't sell more by marking the price down. Anyway it sounds like the committee (which I am on but just recently and haven't made any big decisions) is looking into ways to make sure the prices are fair. How do other markets do this? Is there a Price Nazi?

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i think price fixing is illegal. or it should be.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 5:57AM
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My state expressly forbids any kind of collaboration or collusion to fix prices - your market manager should know the laws. If the newbies aren't getting any more business by setting the price low, then what is the concern?

I try to see what things are selling for at my particular market, and the state sends out a weekly price survey from the previous week's market (they do have people checking!), and set my prices accordingly. OK, I did set my cherry toms at $3/pint last week when the only other vendor selling them (there are 3 veggie vendors at market) had them for $4, but her pints were heaped and mine were level, I had seen them at other markets for $3.50/pint but I just didn't want to deal with the change. And a pint doesn't even weigh a lb, I was selling "organic" heirloom beefsteaks for $4 and getting some negative remarks from customers about the price of those, even though the grocery store sells its (certified) organic toms (not even heirlooms) for that, so I didn't want to charge more per pound for cherries than beefsteaks!

My 2 lonely pints of cherry toms didn't sell til end of market when one of my regulars showed up, and someone else snatched the other one (at one point during the last 15 min of market I had people lined up 3 deep waiting for things to be weighed and/or pay - I think the market hours need to be changed back to run later like last year).

I don't know if the other vendor sold any cherry toms, and if she sold them earlier - I didn't notice anyone walking around with any, but she's got her regulars too. In fact, I'm finding this market hard to break into (2nd year) b/c the 2 other produce vendors are bigger (have more stuff including pickles, relishes, baked goods, they have commercial kitchens) and have been there longer than I have.

I think you should see if the state or county has a weekly price survey and let the vendors know about it - you may find that the newbies really are selling low (and they'll want to adjust that), or your established vendors' prices are high compared to neighboring towns, which they also may want to adjust.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 7:07AM
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Price fixing is illegal, but trying to keep a reasonable price is hard to do also.

We have been to one market that stated that they would like for the vendors' prices to be about 20% in difference, but then later in the season, we had tomatoes prices from $1 to $3. I'm sure that the market masters didn't say anything to anyone.

A weekly price survey would be nice, but each market has their own pricing niche and the survey would be an average. I do think that pricing near the survey, or top, would be a good starting point. But, then, one week delay could change alot.

I don't have an answer for your as far as maintaining a reasonable and fair price. Or how to enforce it. Suggesting is about all you can do.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 10:00AM
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I am completely disgusted w/the prices at my regular market. My fellow vendors are in their late 80's and are doing it for a hobby. They ask 50 cents for a pint of their cherry tomatoes and .25/lb for potatoes. Our other market has been ruined by a wholesaler who sells everything ridiculously low--ie jumbo colored peppers 3/$1. We just can't compete w/those prices.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 2:27PM
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The first thing they teach at law school is that when you disagree with the law, no one cares what you think. (I don't want anyone to take offense at that, fwiw the law does not care what I think, either.) It's not an easy lesson for everyone to learn. Price fixing is illegal. It might be morally, ethically, religiously, and practically correct, but it's still illegal.

A market has to at least have an official policy of no price fixing. Unofficially, the real policy of price-fixing is often enforced by driving out the unpopular sellers, or at least threatening to, off the record of course.

I would like to see the 'grow it yourself' policy more strictly enforced. That would keep out re-sellers and their low prices. Sometimes it is just laughably obvious that produce at a 'grow it yourself' market did not come from anywhere near that location. I'm zone 6, last year was a cold and wet spring, and there was sweet corn at our market on May first. It must have been some sort of magic corn that grows at 45 degree temps :)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 3:24PM
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i also think a producer only market helps the price issue. but if i go to the market and i've got a lot of summer squash that i can either sell or compost sell wins every time and i will lower my price to move it. a customer will buy more if the price is lower.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 5:18PM
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When I brought things in from my farmer friends, I made sure that I was the same price or higher than the local 'grown' Since I was usually the first on market, I had a hard time figuring out how high others were going to charge.

Even usually the Amish auction, I tried to pay a reasonable price to the farmer, since they had to live also. If someone doesn't get decent prices, they will not grow that item the following year.

Randy, summer squash, or at least the yellow ones, don't sell well here either, unless I can talk to the customers and tell them that you can substitute them for Zucchini. That works IF there are NO zukes at market.

Brook, I really understand and sympathize with you regarding the 'hobby farmers'. At my former major market, most of them are gone or died off, but at the local market we have 1 gentlemen that will not sell his tomatoes for more than $1 per pound (I grateful that he went that high, when I first attended 'his' market, his price was 50 cents/lb and didn't think he could get more).

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 8:29PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I am not sure exactly what you mean by price fixing per se. The steering committee members such as myself were just discussing how to make sure newbies or whoever don't sell so low we all have troubles. Despite our being particular about what gets approved for each vendor, somehow there were way too many baked goods. The new vendors were selling so low you couldn't make a profit unless you sold out and had bought the groceries at Walmart maybe. That made the other 2 seasoned vendors (one older lady with good prices and one with high prices) concerned about how their stuff would look and how they could make any profit. We need to address this but I am not sure how.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 11:18PM
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I like to get along with other vendors , still there are a few who have a lot of nerve and give their uninvited opinion of what I should sell things for. Today one suggested that I not only raise my prices to "train" the customers , but that I should also deceive them in the process(like she was). I just told her "thank you for your kind suggestions" and walked away.

I have a conscience and won't do anything to hurt honest vendors. One lady says "don't lower prices even if you have too much of something", but when pressed she admits she does just that. I think lowering your prices when you have too much, in moderation, is a way of thanking loyal customers. If that is going to hurt someone maybe they are not doing something right. I have customers who say as long as my prices average out to what they feel they should expect to pay they will shop my stall. A vendor's regular high transaction people don't scrounge through looking for who is undercutting whom...and I wouldn't worry about anyone who was.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 1:12AM
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I am not sure exactly what you mean by price fixing per se. The steering committee members such as myself were just discussing how to make sure newbies or whoever don't sell so low we all have troubles.

Just don't put anything in writing. The part I underlined is the definition of price-fixing, and what you may not do under the law. So just don't get caught. Talk to the problem vendors in person. If a year goes by, and you cannot change their mind, just kick them out of the market for the next year, under some other pretense that is unrelated to their low prices.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 1:11PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Ok. We are talking about baked and homemade goods here. If someone sells cupcakes so low that they barely break even then the customers will not buy cupcakes from someone else who is trying to make a small profit. If no one can make a profit then no one will be able to sustain this business.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 2:14PM
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If the "cupcakes" are exactly the same, Then price will sometimes come into consideration. However, usually no two "cupcakes" are the same. One may be bigger, home made vs box, etc. Prices need to be different to let people decide if they want cheap, or value. Each type of seller is going to get some business. Just because a "box store" moves into your area doesn't mean all other stores are going to go out of business. Some will. But the ones that offer something different, better service or quality, or any other way to set them apart will survive and do well. Produce and flowers are the same. You just have to keep plugging along and not remain stagnant. Try new things.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 3:54PM
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You could 'suggest' to the person that is selling so low that if they raise their price some then they will actually be making more money. Talk to their wallet, some people only hear with that.

Example: if they have cupcakes priced at 25 cents, then they will only make $3 when they sell 12. But if they raise the price to 50 cents, then they will only need to sell 6 to make the same amount of sales. Plus they will have less expenses in those 6 AND have treats for themselves with the extra 6 (or sell them and double their money).

Believe it or not, some people only add up their actual expenses, without adding in the electric/gas needed or their time. Back in the day, my mother told me, that how to figure what you should charge was 1/3 for expenses, 1/3 for your time and 1/3 for profit. So if those 'cupcakes' costs $1 for 1 dozen, you should be charging $3 per dozen.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 6:49PM
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