Visitation back to pre-COVID levels at the South Melbourne Market

Brendan Rees

The South Melbourne Market has “rapidly returned to being vibrant” with visitation levels bouncing back to pre-COVID levels in recent months, according to its annual report released in October.

About four million people visited the market in 2021-22, a drop of about a million visitors compared to 2018-19 before the pandemic.

But visitation begun to return to pre-pandemic levels in June this year and “our customers love the market just as much as ever”, the report said.

Despite two gruelling years of rolling lockdowns – which resulted in a $242,000 operating deficit after rent fees were frozen and carparking revenue also significantly reducing – the market retained a 99 per cent stall occupancy rate throughout 2020-21. 

“Building financial stability is a key strategic priority of the market and committee and – global pandemics aside – the work done this year to develop new revenue models and minimise costs stands the market in good stead for the future,” the report said.

City of Port Phillip mayor Marcus Pearl said while the market was back to performing well there were challenges ahead, noting “now is the time to reposition the market for the current and future resident base”.

“We’ve reviewed some governance structures at the market, which is important, but this report highlights some of the financial challenges that the market is facing, but also some of the wonderful things that are going on that’s made the market such a huge success particularly in the past 10 or 12 years,” he said at the council’s meeting on October 19.

Owner of Cavalli Leather Goods and Fashion Gila Cavalli, who has been at the South Melbourne Market for nearly 30 years, said trading was looking “very positive” thanks to the market’s supportive management.


“Since we opened [after lockdowns] it’s been amazing, the locals have been supportive,” she said, but noted it had “slowed down a bit” on Wednesdays and Fridays, possibly due to a drop in workers not being in their offices and people being impacted by rising living costs although retail trade was still strong on weekends.


“I think it will change, I’m very positive. We would like to see more people to support us, it’s a local market, we love you, they love us,” Ms Cavalli said. 

Ms Cavalli said trading had seen a consistent flow of customers and she was grateful for the support of her loyal customers.

Moshe, who runs Moses and Co. Market Wholefoods, a family-owned and -run business with over 30 years in the health food industry, said the market was “buzzing”, but noted “we still need to see more coming back and new visitors”. 

“We are consistent, but it’s not 2019 due office workers who are not 100 per cent back,” he said while also noting high inflation costs was the biggest challenge facing traders. 

“It’s hard for everyone; for the customers, for the retailers, for the delivery people, everyone is hurting,” he said pointing to rising petrol and shipping costs.

“We can always be better for businesses to survive and to keep going and sustain themselves.”

But he said a huge positive was the market’s “diverse community and amazing loyal customers”.

The annual reported showed an “exceptional community satisfaction results” with 97 per cent of respondents rating the market offer as “very good or excellent and a benchmark-exceeding NPS (net promoter score) of 75.5.”

Improvements made to the market included internal spaces with the installation of new floorings, fixtures, and fittings as well as improved accessibility and safety for visitors. 

Construction for a permanent alfresco dining precinct adjacent to the food hall, is due to be completed during spring 2022. •


Caption: Gila Cavalli, owner of Cavalli Leather Goods and Fashion, says the support of visitors to the South Melbourne Market had been amazing.

Caption: Moshe, who runs Moses and Co. Market Wholefoods, said the market was getting back to its best following the pandemic. 

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