Visitor numbers back on track at South Melbourne Market
Visitation levels at the South Melbourne Market have jumped in the past year, reaching near pre-pandemic levels, according to the annual report released in October.
Almost 5.15 million people visited the iconic market in 2022-23 – an increase of 28 per cent compared to the previous year.
The market’s committee chairperson Amanda Stevens shared her enthusiasm for the market’s recent achievements, noting it had been a “fantastic year”.
“Key achievements have included the completion of a new outdoor dining precinct (adjacent to the Food Hall), the return of the popular Port Phillip Mussel and Jazz Festival, delivering an end of year operating surplus and launching the Environmental Sustainability Strategy, a first for the Market,” she said in the report.
Visitation levels, however, were down seven per cent on pre-pandemic period, but the report revealed that 96 per cent of traders were satisfied with the market as a venue for business, with 97 per cent of customers rating the market as “good/very good”.
Ms Stevens said the “passion, knowledge, hard work and community spirit” of traders gave the market “the friendly village atmosphere that makes it so special and keeps the locals and visitors coming back time and again”.
Stall holder of 10 years Cong Tran, who runs Everything Aussie, selling Australian souvenirs, said business was up and could “see a lot more people coming to the market”.
“It’s a great vibe. I think this is the best so far. There’s lots of Asian tourists coming in recent months, before it was the Western tourists,” he said.
Freckly Ollie owner Diana, who sells a range of luxury children’s wear, said the market was more vibrant and positive in recent times, enhancing the overall experience for visitors.
“Coming through COVID, anything is amazing,” she said, noting more interstate clients were visiting her stall in-person.
“I think it’s very different for each trader. From our perspective, it is more about the season and people rather than just from a traffic sense for our type of retail.”
“Because we sell baby clothing, we tend to get more locals. Tourists shop with us occasionally but only to buy small items because of the difference in seasons overseas.”
However, a long-term trader who wished to remain anonymous, said while the market felt busier, “it’s nowhere near what it used to be”.
“People are visiting more but they’re not spending, they’re just passing time because they can’t afford to go anywhere,” they said.
“They’re not strong shoppers or they’re not relying on the market as an everyday shopping precinct, it’s more a casual visitation thing.”
“It’s one of those things that is a sign of the times. The direction of how people shop is changing.”
But they said suppliers had reported that “we are the best market so that’s a positive”.
The market posted an operating surplus of $380,000 which was “higher than anticipated due to a reduction in operating expenses”.
“While other retail precincts are still experiencing high post-covid vacancies, the market retained 100 per cent occupancy and strong demand from businesses wishing to have a stall at the market, supporting the achievement of the income budget through strong rental income,” the report said. •