Business

Business Lessons from Ben' Down Market

Your Money

Cherryl Hanson-Simpson

Thursday, September 20, 2012    

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Recently, I travelled west to the parish of Trelawny, to find out more about the income-generating opportunities present in its capital town. A friend had told me of her success in selling some goods in a popular Wednesday sales venue in Falmouth, and I wanted to test the viability of a new product in the famed Ben' Down Market.

As a resident of Kingston, I am sometimes guilty of thinking that the best economic activities take place in the first city. The reality is that there are many enterprising persons all across Jamaica who are creating wealth in a variety of ways. To learn more about what people were doing to make money in that side of the island, I decided to share market space with my colleague.

My adventure started off very early in the morning, as I was told that to secure a good spot we needed to be at the location by 5:00 am. The sun had not yet made an appearance when we arrived, but already there were dozens of persons working industriously in the bustling environs of the marketplace.

While I had previously visited a few markets as a shopper, I had never experienced the vitality and vibe of these venues from a vendor's viewpoint. My eyes were opened to the ingenuity, resolve and perseverance that is evident in the work of these productive powerhouses of our country. In fact, my encounter taught me several valuable and insightful lessons about business success.

The early bird catches the opportunity

The advice we had received to set out early was right on target. With hundreds of stalls available at the venue, prime positions that provided good viewing by shoppers were quickly taken. As a business person you need to be timely in presenting your new offerings to the market. If you delay too long, you may lose the first-to-market advantage to a major competitor.

Business location is key

As I strolled around the market grounds, it became clearer why some spots were more valued by the vendors, as there were certain areas that would not receive good foot traffic from shoppers. It's been said that 'location, location, location' is key to getting customers in the door, so make sure to research the suitability of your business site before establishing your office.

Be unique in your offerings

In examining the offerings at the stalls, I realised that the majority of market vendors were selling clothing, shoes and toiletries for adults. Consequently, there was a lot of similarity in many of the products on sale. To distinguish yourself in a crowded marketplace, try to offer a product or service that is unique or which satisfies an under-served area of consumer demand.

Your business won't sell itself

While some of the vendors made an effort to call out to passing shoppers, many of them were content to let their goods do the talking; which led to limited sales success. With so many options in the marketplace, competition for the customer's attention can be fierce. You have to aggressively market your offerings to put your business in the forefront of the buyers' minds.

Assess and adjust your strategies

In researching the market for my product, I started out with a price that would allow me to offer discounts if required. When it became obvious that my introductory price was uncompetitive, I slashed the cost and achieved better results. It's important to be prompt in assessing the market response to your sales efforts, and make adjustments to your promotional strategies.

Sampling brings sales

Jamaicans have a saying 'Don't buy puss in bag,' which means that you should know what you are getting before you pay for it. Since I was offering a brand new product, I did live demonstrations and offered trial sizes for sale. One of the best ways to create visibility for your business and entice potential buyers is by giving away samples or offering your services for free.

Pay attention to customer demands

My stall mate was selling imported clothing in excess of $1,000 per item, but many persons asked if we didn't have any 'ray-ray' clothes. Some investigative work revealed that these were slightly worn items that cost about $100-$300. It can be profitable to be flexible in meeting changing demands from your customers, so keep your eye out for new business trends to exploit.

Don't join the competition - serve them

Some of the vendors shared that sales fluctuated; some weeks were profitable while others were lean. However, other persons always earned regardless of the circumstances. The handcart men, loaders and stall owners had guaranteed sales because they served the vendors. If you are looking for a niche, how about offering a product or service required by other business owners?

My trip to Ben' Down Market provided me with many more insights on business success. So, the next time you visit a market, don't just focus on the items you want to purchase; be on the lookout for ideas that might inspire you to improve your own business operation!

Cherryl is a money coach, business mentor, and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. Her upcoming book, "The 3 Ms of Money" will reveal all the secrets she learned about financial success. Get more tips on money and business matters at www.financiallysmartadvice.com and www.entrepreneursinjamaica.com. Email comments to cherryl@financiallysmartonline.com.

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