In earlier times, a ‘common’ market was the place where both buyers and sellers would meet and conduct their transactions. It would have a variety of products ranging from spices, fruits to animals, antiques, crockery and other commodities. This common market also served as a centre of trade as people would come from various regions to display their commodities and specialities in order to gain and expand business outside their borders. With time, the concept of the common market evolved giving way to a variety of specialised markets such as antiques market, farmers’ market and other. Supermarkets then came into existence as living standards and life styles changed. Today, in almost all countries, there are a great number of supermarkets and malls whereby a great number of products can be bought and sold.
But is one of form of market better than the other? This particular comparative exercise continues to be conducted at various levels. This is primarily because as countries are integrating on various fronts through globalization, the competition between firms and markets is becoming intense. Thus, it is utmost critical to conduct comparison exercises to be aware of advantages and disadvantages and to know where the greatest benefits to consumers lie.
The comparison of supermarket and farmer’s market has been conducted extensively by both academics and corporate world. Common people or rather consumer also conduct this exercise on a daily basis in order to see where they can economize and where do they gain most from benefits. The issue is not only of economizing but also of convenience and time as the environment has become more hectic due to various pressures and competition. The paper aims to compare supermarket to a farmer’s market in order to know what are the main differences between the two, what advantages and disadvantages exist and what factors play a role in choosing one over the other.
Supermarket and Farmer’s market are two different types of market but providing similar products, that is, fruits and vegetables and some other services. Yet, both are different in terms of provision of services and products.
Supermarkets are heavily commercial places where products of various firms all come under one roof giving a variety of choices to consumers. They are big in scale due to the provision of a wide range of products and items such as household items, grocery, fruits and vegetables and bakery products. The diversity of products gives consumers a wide range of choice. A new trend recently observed is promotion of supermarket’s own brand of products in categories such as washing powder, dish liquid, bakery items like bread, biscuits, cakes and others, jams, tissue boxes and many others. Generally, the supermarket’s brands of products are cheaper to other brands that help consumers economize on some commodities. Due to the location and all products being under one roof, they offer a great advantage in terms of shopping and great convenience to their customers as it is easy, near to home and shopping can be done at any time of the day.
Farmer’s markets are where farmers directly bring their produce in one particular place to sell. According to Roth (Online) it is one crowded ‘burstling place with dozens of local growers offering their wares and produce’. Generally, farmer’s markets are often located outside the urban cities and are held once a week. However, it is not heavily commercial and there is not a whole lot of variety product wise. In farmer’s market, one would generally find fruits and vegetables of all sorts and some other homemade products. The fresh food is a major attraction for consumers who like fresh food and know the benefits of organic foods. The farmer’s market promotes the use of fresh and organic food in health terms. However, there is a lack of brands since all the products are nearly same. This aids the consumers as it lowers the confusion between products and makes shopping easier. Yet, its location and the timing – once a week – makes it difficult for people to do their shopping every day. It is inconvenient for customers as usually the farmer’s market is held out on weekends when the families seek entertainment and time together rather than doing grocery shopping.
Supermarkets because of their large scale involve ‘middle processes’ that are generally known as supply management. The supply management processes ensure that the supermarket receives the products on time and that inventory doesn’t go down in times of shocks. In the case of fruits and vegetables, the supermarket has systems whereby fruits and vegetables are picked up from the farmers directly and are brought to the cities through transport. However, the price that farmers receive for their produce is different from the price that the consumers pay for the produce in the supermarket. This is because there are costs involved for the supermarket such as refrigeration of fruits and vegetables while being transported to cities, sorting out by employees of the rotten fruits and vegetables, employees placing the produce in relevant sections ensuring that consumers easily obtain their shopping and others. These supply management routes along with factors such as electricity, transport costs, employees cost all add up in the price of the products. Such costs are reflected in the price of the products as they are passed on to the customers. Generally, the prices between supermarket and farmer’s market differ by a wide margin primarily because a supermarket will not function if there is less profit and less revenue generation.
Farmer’s market on the other hand does not involve any supply management processes because the farmers directly bring their produce in the market. With homogenous products, there is more or less perfect competition in the environment, that is, the sellers are unable to influence their price since everyone has more or less the same product that is fruits and vegetables, to offer. The prices in farmer’s market do tend to be less expensive as reported by Sommer, Knight and Sommer (1474) in their study that tomatoes were found to be less expensive in farmer’s market than in supermarket. Consumers benefit from farmer’s market because not only do they get fresh produce but they also pay less compare to what is paid in the supermarket. It is seen as a great way to economize. With emphasis on using organic foods as it has most benefits, most consumer have shifted from buying produce in supermarket to buying it from farmer’s market. Thus, supermarkets are facing a tough competition as the consumer focus has shifted from using genetically modified produce to organic produce.
Supermarkets have the biggest advantage in terms of food and product safety. In recent times, food safety has taken a higher priority at all levels since it is one sector with a high risk of initiating illnesses. Products not kept in the right temperature can lead to illnesses such as diarrhoea, vomiting and other diseases. Although the illnesses are treatable, yet, the cost of it ends up affecting other sectors in the form of sick leave and increase in the costs of healthcare bills. The food municipalities all over the world ensure that the supermarkets keep products at the right temperature and are following the strict guidelines in order to ensure public health safety. Failure in adhering to guidelines results in heavy fines or in closure. Thus, the major reason for consumers to do their shopping from supermarkets stems from the security that the products are not expired or will not go bad as guidelines are being followed. The clean environment with the security of non-expired products eases consumers from many worries and tensions.
Farmer’s market here poses a dilemma because although the farmers generally bring in the amount they know they will be able to sell, the produce if leftover needs to be stored in a hygienically clean environment if it is to be sold for the next day. Not many people have the storage capacities to store the produce and thereby, the probability of produce rotting or going bad is higher. Thus, generally the rules for farmers market are strict compare to supermarkets as it has to be ensured that no bad food passes the human chain. Secondly not all farmers have the storage capacities due to a variety of reasons therefore it is difficult for them to store any produce leftover at the end of the day. Generally, farmers try to sell the produce all at once or bring in a certain amount they know will be sold and the rest they sell to retailers.
Supermarkets provide a huge advantage in terms of promotion and various campaigns that the firms hold to capture the market. Various firms do promotional offers of their products which is a way to capture the market share. These promotions come in forms such as scratch-win coupons, special discounts regarding some products such as buy one-get one free offers, or buy a product and enter the draw. These marketing campaigns are pursued by the firms through supermarkets who keep their products and thus reach out to consumers on a wide scale. Consumers get the benefit in terms of lower prices, the opportunity to test a new product and a chance to win many prizes.
Farmer’s market on the other hand does not provide promotions or marketing campaign on a wide scale. There are limited in terms of their offers on the products since nearly everyone has the same product more or less. However, their offers on homemade products are unique and different compare to supermarkets. Most homemade products offered by farmer’s markets are unique and mostly valuable since the products are handcrafted and much effort goes in making such products, These products are attractive for various purposes such as gifts and for home decoration. Such products are hardly found in supermarkets and mostly home related products are similar as they are produced by machine than hand-made. The farmer’s market through handmade products offers unique insight into the culture and arts that exists in many small towns and suburban areas. Consumers enjoy and gain knowledge on various art forms which is usually not the case in supermarket. Most importantly, social interaction takes place in the farmer’s market allowing community to come together. People come together, share ideas and get to know each other forming new friendships and relationship. The social interaction creates a close knit environment resulting in a conducive and productive atmosphere for all.
Supermarket and farmer’s market both have their advantages and disadvantages. The preference for each depends on one’s lifestyle, convenience and routines followed. Thus, the demand for supermarket and farmer’s market solely depends on consumer needs and requirements and both will continue as long as they serve the interests of the consumers.
Roth, John.D. ‘Grocery Store Vs Farmer’s Market: Which Has the Cheapest Produce?’Get Rich Slowly.org. 2007. Web.
Sommer, Robert, Henry Knight, Barbara A Sommer. Comparison of Farmer’s market and supermarket produce: Tomatoes and Bell Peppers, Journal of Food and Science, 44, 1474 – 1477. 2006. Web.