SPIN Apprenticeship Lesson: Respond to Seasonal Trends and Supply/Demand

Courtesy of Bryon H., Saskatoon SK

Over the last two weekends at the Saturday farmers market I learned creative ways to increase exposure and sales. The first one was the transition from being an outdoor vendor to an indoor vendor. The challenge was notifying as many customers as possible that Wally’s Urban Market Garden would continue selling indoors throughout the fall and winter. Leading up to this weekend, we mentioned this to customers at the outdoor stand.

Last Saturday was the transition, where we set up a stand both indoors and outdoors. The satellite outdoor space cost an additional $15, but its sales quickly covered this expense. In addition to sales, we guided many customers inside to the indoor stand.

SF photo Bryon outside market stand

The indoor stand has some big advantages, like heat, since temperatures are now barely above freezing. Others are:
>> extending your marketing period
>> less logistical steps without full stand take down

SF photo Bryon inside market stand


This past Saturday happened to fall on Halloween! Not the regular market day for sure, and everyone had a good time. I was dressed as a stack of pancakes and was quite satisfied with the laughs I got.

SF photo BryonHalloween


In addition to the permanent inside stand, our satellite stand this time consisted of a temporary pair of tables featuring many heirloom pumpkin and squash varieties. If some of you out there grow or plan to grow unique pumpkin/squash (esp. large ones) you should sell of slices using SPIN’s price tier structure. These work very well for customers who are curious but intimidated to commit to an entire pumpkin.

Our Halloween pumpkin table could not have been timed better. Apparently the grocery stores in the city had sold out the day before and couldn’t restock due to an American crop failure in Illinois. As soon as the market opened we had numerous people buying multiple pumpkins. Some of these were customers who had never shopped from us before. So splitting up and having multiple inside stands definitely increased our sales.
The lesson I learned was to into get stuck in a rut with your farm stand, and always be looking for ways to change up your display and positioning, take advantage of seasonal trends, and be responsive to supply/demand issues. The more creative you are, the more people you reach.


My Farmers Market Provides the Best of Both Worlds

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK

I have lived in two worlds at our local farmers market. For the last several years, I sold year round indoors at our fixed stand. But in early May, Gail and I switched to an outdoor stand in front of the market. The spots are about the same in price, and each has pro’s and con’s.

The obvious advantage to an indoor market is you don’t have to think about weather. No wrestling with canopies in the wind or trying to salvage rain-soaked produce. The disadvantage is having to haul your produce indoors, which can be grueling. We addressed that by installing a reach-in cooler at our stand, so we could store any unsold produce in there until the next market day.

An outside market poses the logistical headache of having to lug your stand to each market and set it up. We have a van that we leave our tables and canopy in. And I find once you establish a set routine for stand set up and take down, you get good at it, and it soon becomes a non-issue. Outside, there is also the pressure of having to lug unsold produce back home, so projecting sales volume becomes much more exacting.

But the good news is that our move outside has actually resulted in increased sales. We make much higher sales at Wednesday’s outside market than we did inside. Sometimes we make just as much money that day as we do on the big market days, Saturday and Sunday. So I find I am doing better outdoors right now than I would be if I were inside. Here is the dynamic I think is in play.

Most of the fresh produce vendors are outside, whereas the inside is dominated by food-court like vendors who sell prepared foods. It seems in the summer, serious shoppers expect to buy their produce outside. In fact, many prefer it. They don’t even go inside. It is much easier for them to grab and go without having to navigate through those who come to the market more for entertainment. Those types hang out inside or on the outside terrace. So the inside/outside areas are a natural way to segment the two different types of customers, and eliminate any conflict between their market behaviors.

My current strategy is to swing both ways, depending on the season. Outside in summer. Inside in winter. So be observant and be sure that you are following your customers, instead of making it hard for them to get to you. And if there are tensions at your market between the grocery shoppers and those just making the scene, let your management know there is a way to create the best for both worlds. My market here in Saskatoon is a great model.

SF photo market 1

This summer, I am an outsider at market …

SF photo market 2

along with the other fresh produce sellers…

.SF photo market 5who cater to the grocery shoppers…

SF photo market 4t

who find it quicker and more convenient to shop outdoors…. 

SF photo market 3

while those who just want to enjoy the scene can hang out  inside the market or out on the terrace over  a leisurely snack, breakfast or lunch.  Having both inside and outside areas is a great way for farmers markets to cater to two different types of customers.   

Design Your Stand for Optimal Sales

Courtesy of Keri F., Green Sister Gardens, Moose Jaw SK 

I have my two tables set up in an L shape (I’ve experimented with all kinds of different  configurations and this has the best flow.) So the hottest spot on the table are the two ends of the tables (one of them is a little better than the other).

I will put whatever item I have the most of that week or if I have a new item that I want people to try I will put it in that spot. I also put radishes and other highly colored veggies in the middle of my tables because the colors capture people’s attention and they come in for a closer look usually 🙂

SF photo Keri Fox Green Sisters Garden farm stand design

Farm Stand Display

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK

Now that we’ve expanded our product line to bedding plant, my wife Gail came up with a new design for our market stand. She got some grow lights put into our stand, so we can leave them there between markets. You can see the live plants, as well as our storage crops we continue to sell form our harvest last fall. SPIN photo farm stand display