market manager
River & Wren Boutique Markets The Market Manager

The Market Manager’s Dilemna

I recently sent out a survey to my local community seeking feedback on the River & Wren Markets, the market that I manage, and the survey results have proven that there definitely is such a thing as the Market Manager’s Dilemma.

So what is the Market Manager’s Dilemma?  The Market Manager’s Dilemma is simply that a Market Manager, no matter how hard she/he tries, can NEVER please everyone!

River & Wren is a curated handmade market in country NSW in Australia.  It has been in operation for three years now and has become bigger and more popular than I ever dreamed possible.

In an attempt to keep the market fresh and exciting for the community the survey sought feedback to help us keep improving the market.

One of the survey questions was:

“Do you have any suggestions as to how we could improve your market experience?”

This, to me, was the most interesting question in the survey and the answers were varied.

So, what did the results tell me?

The results pretty much validated what I already knew but I’ll summarise some of them here to highlight that a Market Manager’s job should not be coveted!!

Regular Stall holders versus New Stall holders

Let’s start with the most contentious issue.  Of all the survey responses, this was the issue that split everyone!  And it’s the issue that consumes my time when curating a market, not to mention the lost sleep ….

  • Some people believe that regular stall holders should make up the market
  • But others complain if there are too many regular stall holders
  • Some people want as many new stall holders as possible
  • But others are disappointed if a regular is not offered a place at the market to allow a new stall holder to attend
  • Some people want new stall holders and it doesn’t matter if they take the place of a regular stall holder

Ahhhhh …..  can you see my dilemma?

There is nothing wrong with all these different opinions, everyone is coming from a different perspective and is entitled to their own opinion.  It’s just that as the person putting the market together (that’s me!) it is impossible to keep everyone happy.

As a primarily indoor market we are limited by the number of stalls we can fit into the market so can’t make an offer to all applicants.  Besides, that wouldn’t be an interesting market as there are several product categories that receive an outrageous number of applications.

Over the years I’ve tried to find a happy balance between regulars and new stall holders while keeping the products on offer as diverse as possible.  I’m not sure that people understand that a curated market can only be put together from stall holders who apply to attend.  I can only introduce new stall holders to River & Wren if new stall holders apply to attend!

A typical comment was:

“I think some of the new ideas done more recently have been fab. Putting in a food hall is an awesome idea. I like seeing new store holders which keeps the market fresh. If you don’t get new and different stall holders in it doesn’t make it exciting.”

Market Manager

             Our Food Hall now has its own dedicated space that has been embraced by the community

The Size of the Market

“The market is perfect as it is and I love that you’ve moved the Food Hall into another hall.”

“I just love the large crowds that attend the market and the atmosphere the crowds create at the market.”

“The market needs to be bigger.”

“The market is too big.”

“There are too many people attending the market.  They make it hard to see all the stalls.”

“You need to move the market to a bigger venue.”

“Last market was very crowded which was awesome but made it hard to look at stalls.  Prams were a big issue.  Great that you’ve expanded into the other hall.”

“The market is perfect as it is, please don’t change a thing.”

“It needs a larger venue, or more stalls outside. It is too crowded”

“Make the market even BIGGER!!!”

Ummm … We’re already in the largest and most suitable venue in Wagga.  There is no where else to go!  And personally, I LOVE the crowds  (but I’m probably a little biased!)

Regularity of the Market

“Market should be held every month.”

“Market should be held more regularly.”

“Markets more often.”

“I would love the market to be held more often, otherwise it’s perfect.”

I’m sorry to disappoint but my sanity would not survive if the market was held more regularly.  For this reason alone, we will remain bi-monthly (except at Christmas time!)

Handmade versus Non-Handmade

This is a non-negotiable issue as we are a handmade market and will always be handmade, homemade and homegrown only.

Handmade is River & Wren’s point of difference from other markets in the region and when the survey asked what drew people to attend River & Wren, far and away the largest response was that handmade was the main reason people come to our market.

However a few people commented that as much as they like handmade, we should offer non-handmade items as well!!

“I do love the handmade aspect of the market however I wouldn’t mind also seeing sellers with quality items on offer that aren’t necessarily handmade.”

Of course there is always room for improvement

Before I’ve had time to analyse the survey results, I’ve been able to action several issues raised by respondents.

(1)     One comment made by quite a few people was that they’d like more seating at the market.  Voila!  That was an easy fix and we doubled our indoor seating at our market last weekend for people to catch up with friends and family over coffee and cake or lunch (or both!) while hopefully contemplating that purchase they were thinking of making!

(2)     I’ve been actively seeking new stall holders who can provide new and exciting products to the market to help us provide an even more diverse range of products.

(3)     I am always encouraging stall holders to think about their stall’s presentation and to use their stall space as creatively as possible.  This comment has stayed with me:

“Love that everything is handmade, some stall looks amazing while others I feel they don’t fit the market setup.”

Watch this space!  I have an idea for our next market.

And just because this warms the heart of this Market Manager  …..

“I just love the market to bits.”

“We love the market and encourage family and friends to visit us when the market is on so we can take them to the market.”

“There is nothing to improve it’s perfect tbe way it is.”

“It’s perfect the way it is!”

“One of the best markets I’ve ever been to. Lots of variety and great quality.”

Thank you to everyone who returned the survey.  Feedback is so important to keeping the market fresh and exciting.  If you live in the region or have attended our market but missed out on providing us with your feedback you can still complete the survey here (though the prizes have already been won!)


Comments (6)

  • Having attended quite a few of your markets I am impressed with how it is constantly evolving. One big complaint that I have was the wait time on trying to get a coffee at the last markets. We waited 40 minutes to get 3 coffees. The food area is great and we (myself and visitors from Cooma) were able to secure a seat which was really appreciated after walking around looking at all the beaut stalls. Maybe allowing another coffee vendor in would be a good idea

    • Thanks for your feedback Lynn. Yes, coffee is the bane of my life – and I don’t even drink coffee!! We recently increased our coffee vendors to two to try to alleviate the wait as I know how much everyone looks forward to their coffee at the market. I’ll have a think about your suggestion.

  • I have such admiration Jennie for you running this market and I think the feedback above says it all. You certainly can’t please everyone but I do know the reason behind the success and ever growing popularity of R&W is because of all your hard work, incredible passion and the way you do curate this market and offering a diverse range of products. Its always going to be hard to balance the mix of products vs offering new stallholders a chance plus keeping on the regulars, and keeping everyone happy at the same time. For me, I love this market because its always such a happy place. As a regular stall holder Ive had the pleasure of meeting so many people- new customers and lots of returning customers…ones that you become friends with and love catching up with every few months. As for the maker and producers community- just fabulous…always with a smile on their faces and greeting everyone with enthusiasm. Even if they have been up most of the night before!!! Happy vibes do radiate and it is so wonderful to see so many smiling faces wandering through enjoying their R&W time. I do think another reason for its popularity is because its only only bi-monthly. It becomes a treat and an occasion to be marked in the diary. It also helps preserve how special handmade is. River & Wren is an absolute credit to you Jennie and I think its great and necessary to reflect on those questions and responses above… I can only see this market getting even better xxx Fabulous effort to you and your gorgeous family xxx

    • Oh thank you Kylie! That’s very kind of you. I have chills down my spine!! I’m so glad you enjoy River & Wren. I know I’m biased but I do feel it is a special place for our community to come together. The feedback from the survey is invaluable, however, the market in its current form is embraced by the community, so with just a few tweaks here and there we’ll keep following our existing template and hopefully keep growing and getting better along the way.

  • My hat goes off to you Jennie…..the amazing feat that you pull off called The River & Wren Markets. They are an absolute wonder to attend. I attended them 4 times as a visitor and once as a stall holder and each time the excitement of what I would find was fantastic. Unfortunately I was unable to have my stall due to an injury and I was so disappointed.

    You need to be very proud of what you have achieved, on a personal level, with the people that you have helped to start their dream businesses and what you are doing for Wagga by the visitors that come to Wagga just to attend the River & Wren.

    Thank you ??

    • Oh Robyn – thank you for being so kind and supportive. I love that the market can help so many people obtain their creative business dreams (shhhhh – between you and me – keep posted for some news on that coming soon!!). And I get such a thrill when the market attracts so many visitors from all over the region. Makes all the work worthwhile.


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