On my recent holidays down to South East Queensland, I noticed how far away we are from our closest central market (especially when you drive there with four children under the age of eight)!
I set a Friday aside from my holidays to venture into the Rocklea Markets – just to go in and see what was happening and to check out prices, quality and to try and get a buy for our customers.
It is like stepping back in time walking into the markets; buyers just throwing fruit on to the foot path after taking a bite to check the sweetness. Hundreds of forklifts scooting around delivering stock. It is a mostly male-dominated environment and they are all bargaining and haggling over price and quality. The best negotiation tool is just to walk away – if they want to move the stock they will quickly start yelling cheaper prices in $2 increments at a time and quickly come down to your price.
On the surface it has not really changed, but there has been advancements in ordering and stock control with new technologies. Larger supermarkets and agents have gone to automated replenishment ordering systems which means their managers really have no say or personal touch on what they want to order (or sell, for that matter).
Here at Lamberts, we do all our own ordering over the phones with our buyers in the markets. I have never faxed, emailed or used a price list as everything is negotiable. Yes, it does take longer to do, but then I have the knowledge and I know what is happening with every line in the market.
For example, if a certain line is expensive, then we can change to a different size, variety or, buy from a certain growing region. This also gives us flexibility to order extra produce if we find a line that is glamour, or at the peak of the season. Then we can back ourselves to be able to buy larger quantities (bulk) to get a better price and be able to pass it on and move more produce.
You have to remember we phone our order through on Sunday to be brought in the markets on Monday and then we receive it on Tuesday. This happens up to four times a week on different days, so we have to kind of look through our crystal ball to get it right. As we all know, once fresh produce has been picked we have limited time to use it (especially our leafy/bunch lines). That is what makes our local season so wonderful in North Queensland – it can be picked one day and on our shelves the next – as we all know fresh is best!
All of this comes down to experience. As I said in the last issue, experience is just a combination of your mistakes and learning from them. But you get to know the seasons and what you can and can’t sell. What you do in a fruit shop in Brisbane might not (probably won’t) work at Lamberts and vice-versa.
The season is now changing. If there is any stone fruit left in shops be very careful. It might look good on the outside, but the fruit would have been picked extremely green and when it does ripen (if it does) it will probably be black inside so beware!
Let’s really hope that Mother Nature is nice to our Queensland Growers and we have bumper strawberry and mandarin seasons this year! Sooner rather than later, we will start talking to over 50 of our local growers and start buying all of our wonderful North Queensland grown, farm fresh fruit and vegetables so keep an eye out in store for Lamberts “Locally Grown” stickers.
Beautiful fresh fruit and veggies that always inspire healthy meals.Local eggs and dairy, not to mention the in-house butcher. Prices are very competitive with the big guys but the quality and service is out of this world. Lamberts is our one-stop-shop for all things fresh.
Best tasting sausages in town! Beautiful meat and the fruit and veg are great. Nice knowing our money stays local and goes to the growers that need it.
I love that I can buy all of my fruit, veg, meat, dog and chicken food and accessories all in one place.
It is always at an affordable price and the staff are so friendly with genuinely good advice.