The Economic Impact of London’s Western Fair Farmers Market
Public markets have long served as a celebrated component of great cities across North America. Examples like Quincy Market (Boston), Ferry Plaza Farmers Market (San Francisco), and Granville Island Market (Vancouver) are easily recognizable as famous urban landmarks. From a planning perspective, however, it is the locally-supported markets that play the most important social and economic roles within our communities.
I recently toured The Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market in London, Ontario, with Michael Clark from the Old East Village Business Improvement Area. Open year-round on Saturdays, the market features a mix of fresh and prepared food, as well as crafts and merchandise. Since opening in 2006, the market has been credited with reducing the cost of a nutritious food basket in Old East Village by 12%. For those who read the previous article on food deserts, Old East Village was one of the areas in London most impacted by the suburban relocation of grocery stores. In addition, the market’s ability to draw customers has created a strong anchor for the adjacent retail strip. Lastly, the market’s reduced operational entry barriers has allowed it serve as an incubator for small businesses, a number of which are expanding to become permanent retailers in vacant space nearby.
Under his thesis supervisor, Dr. Jason Gilliland, Michael Clark studied the economic impacts of the Western Fair Farmers Market. The results of this research illustrate the demographic composition and origin of customers, as well as their consumption patterns, mode of travel, and consumer preferences.
Visitor counts conducted at entrances measured an average foot traffic of 2,404 people on market days, resulting in an estimated 122,500 visitors over the course of a year. Peak volume times for customers occurred from 10:00AM to 10:40AM, and 11:30AM until 12:00PM.
Considering Western Fair Market has only existed since 2006, its successes to date are impressive. Instead of pushing wholesale gentrification, the market appears to be driving grassroots local economic growth and is providing a stabilizing anchor to Old East Village. As someone who conducts similar primary research studies for commercial retail centres, I am excited to see professional analysis being applied to a public market. The importance of understanding customer demographics, key drawing anchors, and relative market positioning applies to all forms of consumer retail. To compete effectively against commercial shopping centres and large-format retailers, it pays to apply some of their own tactics.
For more information on Michael Clark’s research please contact him through his LinkedIn Profile.
 Larsen, Kristian, and Gilliland, Jason (2009). A farmers‟ market in a food desert: evaluating impacts on the price and availability of healthy food. Health & Place, 15, 1158-1162. on the price and availability of healthy food. Health & Place, 15, 1158-1162.