The Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market, located in Edmonton, Alberta, has been at the heart of the Arts and Theatre district for almost 40 years. Starting as four vendors selling in a parking lot, the market has now grown to over 120 vendors.
To continue to serve their community, the team at the market decided to offer a curbside program for their customers. They wanted to make it as convenient as possible for community members to shop weekly while supporting their regional food system.
Through the program, customers are able to go online, browse through local food from different vendors, and order directly through their Local Line-powered storefront. Next, they are able to use the curbside pickup program to grab their groceries and go.
We sat down with Annie Melnychuk from Old Strathcona’s curbside team to learn more about how this 120-vendor farmers’ market found success selling online.
What’s the benefit of selling online? Annie had this thought to share.
“I think it's just being able to reach our customers in a different way. Like I said, like having the opportunity to have our customers shop with us in a less traditional farmers’ market aspect, it’s a little bit less leisurely, right? You’re just getting what you need and going, but it's allowed people to shop local and support our vendors when they are on a time crunch.”
Updating their market model to meet the needs of all types of customers has proved to be incredibly successful for this Canadian farmers’ market. They are able to offer a familiar market experience to those interested, while also supplying an alternative option for those who just want to grab and go.
“Operating such a large food hub comes with its own set of challenges. Trying to figure out the logistics of listing and updating inventory for so many different vendors selling online can become time-consuming.
I think the other thing too, is, we don't know all the time what the availability is for something. Especially with growers. A lot of their stuff is seasonal. So they'll have pumpkins for a little bit but then no more pumpkins. And if I had to track all that, oh my gosh, I would be here all week just doing curbside stuff.”
Having one place to host all their products, orders, and contact information has saved Annie time since implementing the program. “Local Line has been really helpful for that. [Our vendors] can manage their own stores, add in products, take out products, manage availability, quantities, all that stuff.”
Advice to other markets considering selling online? Annie says, “I would say talk to your vendors first and foremost. You obviously don't want to go through all of the building of a site and a hub if you're only going to have say, five out of 50 vendors interested. Having said that when you talk to them, explain the benefits and what they're going to get out of it. Because a lot of these people are either doing this [as a] hobby on top of a 40-hour workweek they are already working, or they're working, like, 60 hours a week and don't have time to think about anything else.”
Annie found that explaining the advantages of the curbside program and the time investment needed to vendors, helped them understand how selling through the market could be a great sales channel.
“I think it really helped us to speak to our vendors and get them interested and onboard. We've had a lot of support from them, and I think everyone who has participated in the curbside program has been really happy with it. So, that’s all thanks to Local Line.”