Since 2008, What's at the Market (“WATM”) has been quietly helping farmers markets in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia to attract more shoppers and their vendors to increase their sales – and most of the vendors are only now just learning that WATM exists.

WATM started as the result of a market manager’s concern about shopper attendance at her weekly market. In early 1998 she asked several of her vendors to attend a brainstorming session to find ways to attract more shoppers. One of the (proxy) attendees, a vendor’s husband, who is a business analyst and computer systems designer/programmer, realized that this issue was a concern for all farmers markets and he decided to do something about it.

To remind shoppers about local farmers markets he built a simple website that provided:

  • A list of local farmers markets;
  • An option for shoppers to subscribe (for free) to receive email reminder notifications for the markets that interested them;
  • Agreements with the market managers of listed markets to provide WATM with:
    • A detailed vendor and product list for each scheduled market day;
    • An optional message containing information about market activities, vendor special offers and other relevant market day information.
  • A pre-market day email reminder sent to each markets subscribers;
  • A capability for subscribers to inform their friends about the markets.

WATM was an instant hit. By the end of 2008 it listed 7 local Lower Mainland markets and had attracted roughly 2,000 shoppers most of whom were registered for 3 or 4 markets. Today there are 36 Lower Mainland markets and ten’s of thousands of user subscribers.

In 2012 a decision was made to partner with Steve Gallagher, owner of Vancouver's Tugboat Group, a brand development and creative communications agency known for its entrepenurial drive and creative capacity. Tugboat has been instrumental in developing WATM into the function-rich, fully integrated website it is today, where:

  • Market Organaizations can manage their business operations in a secure environment;
  • Market vendors can manage their business operations (including online sales) and their relationships with multiple farmers markets (without duplication) within a central website;
  • Market shoppers can have a single place where they can:
    • ​Request pre-market day email reminders for markets of their choice;
    • Request newsletters from markets and vendors of their choice;
    • Purchase products from multiple vendors in a single transaction.

The new WATM website was soft-launched without fanfare on November 11, 2013. A key feature of the website empowers vendors to list the specific products that they will have available for sale on each market day, allowing shoppers who receive their pre-market day emails to know exactly what products and services are available – particularly nice when the weather is miserable. Also very nice for Market Organizations looking for one point inventory reporting, to manage a broad range of product availability.

All farmers markets and vendors are welcome and encouraged to create  a free profile listing on the WATM website. This includes a simple business profile and the capability to list their complete product inventory and product descriptions for visibilty on shopper site searches and for inclusion in the pre-market day reminder emails.

Market managers and vendors manage their own information within WATM and need to ensure that their business profiles and product lists are current. WATM makes market shopping easier, as shoppers know in advance which vendors will have their favourite products available. Shoppers can also be proactive by encouraging their favourite vendors to spend a few minutes each week and update their product list to accurately show their available products . Vendors will benefit by selling more product.

New markets, regardless of where they are located in North America, are welcome to join WATM and enjoy the benefits of seeing their vendors become more successful.

Tugboat Group, Eat Local, Steve Gallagher, Ivan Kalley, CCO, President, Farmers Markets Management Software