Co-market managers Richard and Morag have been running the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market together since August 2019. They love bringing their community together at the market, and that’s why they knew they needed to revisit their sales channels to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
“Food production doesn’t stop because socialization stops,” explains Richard. “Vendors were still selling—we just needed a way for them to continue to reach their customers.” After hearing about online sales and Local Line through Greenbelt Markets, they started their own online store!
Getting their Local Line store set up was easy. The most challenging aspect of getting set up was onboarding all their vendors at once, so they decided to do so in waves. Richard and Morag currently have 30 vendors in their online market and are hoping to get 15–20 more vendors up and running soon!
“We started with 10 vendors on Local Line,” says Morag. “From the time of first contact to opening the store for the first time was about 2 weeks.”
“Surprisingly, the software has been very easy to understand for vendors,” says Richard. “It was great to see that vendors were easily able to adapt to the software, even those with little tech-experience. When help is needed, the team at Local Line has been fantastic. There are no stupid questions—everyone is free to ask for help and get it!”
Their Local Line account allows vendors to upload their products and adjust their inventory accordingly. Customers can make store accounts and order from their favourite vendors. The market is still able to operate, just using a pre-order model.
To get their customers connected, Richard and Morag decided to run an advertising campaign to attract community members to get signed up with their market. So far, it has been working very well—they have more than 300 customers signed up to their market store, and growing!
Market days now look a bit different from before. The Owen Sound Farmers’ Market store opens up Sunday afternoon and is open to accept orders until Thursday at noon. After the ordering period, all vendors pack their orders and bring them to the market on Saturday with the surname of the customer and their order number attached. Orders are organized alphabetically by surname and are placed on tables in the market venue. Customers can enter the market three people at a time, find their surname, and pick up their orders!
All payments are done online. The market only accepts credit card payments hosted by Square. On Sunday afternoon after market day, Morag goes through the order list and pays out the vendors by e-transfer or cheques. The ability to download a vendor payout report allows this process to run smoothly.
The market also offers curbside pick up. Using the parking lot, twelve customers at a time can line up in their vehicles to accept their orders. They are asked to place a paper with their surname on their dashboard so staff can easily run orders. The system has been going smoothly. Richard shares that their customers are “deliriously happy with the platform,” and they appreciate the chance to be able to get fresh, local products back in their hands.
Since starting their store, they have seen an incremental increase in sales. “You have to first let people know that you’re there before they start ordering,” explains Richard. “People are naturally resistant to trying new things. As we add more vendors on, we are sure our sales will continue to grow.” He adds, “One of our new vendors already made the same sales this week as someone who had joined the week before!”
A New Market Model
Richard and Morag are excited about the progress of their online market store. Getting set up with Local Line was the first step, and now they’re updating to a new market model: an online store in conjunction with their physical market. Moving forward, Local Line will remain an important part of the service that Owen Sound Farmers’ Market offers their customers.
“If I could give advice to other market managers, I would say get online today—not tomorrow. It is a daunting task and a daunting time, but it is worth it,” says Richard. “We started an online store for our market because we had to keep the market up and running during the pandemic. We really like it and are planning on keeping it running even when restrictions lift. It gives our customers an alternative way to buy and support local.”
Take your market online today with a free Local Line trial!
Local Line is the best way for your food business to keep operating and selling during COVID-19. Use Local Line to set up an online store and offer home delivery to your customers.
Nina Galle writes blog posts, templates, free tools, and other helpful resources for farmers and markets.