EDITORIAL: Morisset markets to end

 THE owners of the Morisset Mega Market blame its  demise on a combination of the internet, cheap goods in department stores and reduced consumer spending.

The amount of influence that each of these trends has had on the downturn in business is difficult to quantify but there is no doubt that retailers around Australia are doing it tough as the new world of online shopping turns long-standing business models on their heads.

‘‘Bricks and mortar’’ shops everywhere are finding it harder to compete against ‘‘virtual’’ shopfronts.

But on the competition level, it is worth remembering that large covered markets such as Morisset have themselves been criticised from time to time by the established ‘‘major’’ shopping centres.

The Morisset centre opened in August 2000, attracting 40,000 people on its first weekend. Its owners hoped its proximity to the F3 would lure shoppers both from the Hunter and the Central Coast.

While the idea may have looked good on paper, the Morisset market struggled to capitalise on its early strong trading figures. 

Competition from big ‘‘category-killer’’ stores together with a  strong Australian dollar have helped drive down the prices of virtually every type  of imported good.

If Morisset and its ilk cannot compete with the major shopping centres on price, then their reason for existence is effectively compromised. And unless the market-holders can promise a regular turnover of goods, locals will eventually find fewer and fewer reasons to make repeat visits.

This appears to have been the situation at Morisset, and while the mega market may have been an early attraction for the surrounding Gateway Industrial Estate, the Morisset operators  acknowledge that markets of this type are slowly dying out.

Interestingly, however, another market of similar age to the Morisset venture is doing better than ever.

The Newcastle City Farmers Market has run at Newcastle Showground since 2005, having begun at Morpeth in 1999.

More than 6000 shoppers turn out each Sunday that the markets operate and a recent expansion to Speers Point Park was likewise  successful, showing people across the region will pay for fresh, good quality produce.

Retail trends are constantly changing, and while the individual stall-holders at Morisset will be disappointed by the demise of the business, it is probably better to find new ways of attracting customers than to push against an eventually inevitable tide.

While the landed price of imported goods will increase when the Australian dollar returns to historical levels – as it eventually will –  the change wrought by online shopping is probably only starting.

The history of free enterprise is the history of more efficient delivery models, whether it’s corner stores, supermarkets, mega markets or category killers. Or, in the 21st century – websites,  warehouses, credit cards and delivery vans.    

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