Online market keeps supply chain open

8th July 2020 | Alison Turner

In a Victorian first, Melbourne’s Prahran Market has become the first food market to launch its own online marketplace, allowing customers to order and pay for all their produce from multiple traders on the one centralised website.

Prahran Market Food Lovers’ Direct isn’t just making life easier for customers – some of whom are living in areas that have been locked down once again. It has also created employment and enabled food producers and traders to stay in business.

Prahran Market is Melbourne’s oldest market, and even though it’s surrounded by large supermarket chains, thousands of customers still shop there every week, as they have since the market first opened back in 1864. The customers come for the quality fresh produce, as well as premium meats, cheeses and less common items like truffles.

Melbourne’s oldest market, open since 1864.

When the lockdown first hit, Prahran Market management knew they had to find a way to continue to connect their traders – who depend on the market for their livelihood – to their customers. After fielding enquiries from customers and traders alike about the possibility of a home-delivery service, the team got to work.

“We made contact with a local catering business called The Big Group,” says Simon Ward, the market’s General Manager. “They do a lot of higher-end stuff like horse racing and the Grand Prix. And because of COVID, virtually all of their events have been shut down. So we asked if they had staff and vehicles we could use to enable a home delivery service.”

Utilising The Big Group drivers, administrators and logistics personnel – who would otherwise have faced unemployment – the market began with an ad-hoc service at first, whereby customers would have to order and pay over the phone with each individual trader.

“This wasn’t ideal from a security point of view,” Ward says. “It also meant people didn’t know what the particular trader had. They knew we were here, they knew we had traders, they knew we could home deliver. They just weren’t aware of the product range.”

Pete-N-Rosies is just one of dozens of Prahran Market vendors now trading online.

Once it was determined that a home delivery service was feasible, the Food Lovers’ Direct online marketplace was set up within three weeks. No small feat for a small team.

“We wanted to make sure that there was a one-stop shop and a single platform for all our traders and all our customers to be able to visit,” Ward says. “Customers can see the full range from all the different traders, and can conduct a secure, single card transaction.”

More Prahran Market traders are being added to the online marketplace each week, and traders can access the back end of the site to regularly update their prices and their offerings. The delivery radius is also expanding to include more Melbourne suburbs, including some that have been recently been locked back down.

Almost like being there: the online marketplace has had a hugely positive response.

The market’s initiative has made an enormous difference to the entire local food supply chain in Melbourne, keeping producers and traders in business, creating employment for drivers and other staff, and keeping customers well-fed and happy.

“The response has been great – everyone loves it,” Ward says. “People particularly love being able to see for themselves what’s available; being able to browse and shop online almost as if you were actually walking through the market itself.

“But it’s also the fact that we’ve been able to ensure an ongoing conduit from the producers to the traders to the customers. Everybody in that chain then stays employed.”

You can check out the online marketplace at prahranmarket.com.au

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