Mercato Metropolitano: resurrecting forgotten principles
Success for food markets operator Mercato Metropolitano comes from its focus on adhering to principles that have largely been lost over recent years and not just solely seeking to maximise profitability in the short-term.
Ahead of speaking on the ‘Why marrying authenticity and innovation is key to creating experiential retail destinations’ panel at Retail Week Live 2020, Amedeo Claris, managing director of Mercato Metropolitano, says: “It’s about going back to the origins of local, fresh produce and having respect for your cultural surroundings and community.”
Around these pillars has been created the Mercato Metropolitano business that consists of a growing number of food and drink markets, whose concept was proven in Italy’s Milan in 2015 when the founders ran a temporary market to run alongside the EXPO that had hit town for four months.
“We were on abandoned railway land and the mayor let us run a pop-up, which was very successful and incredibly cost effective. We had 2.5 million people visit us. The EXPO was sponsored by the big food companies so we said ‘let’s do something different that is all about artisans’,” recalls Claris.
Next came London where he says the idea was to look for a landlord who was “willing to embrace our values”. They came good in the Elephant & Castle area and an undeveloped piece of land that has proved an ideal starting point within the UK. This same approach has been taken elsewhere in the capital as well as overseas in order to push ahead with other markets.
Claris cites recent efforts in the US that have seen Mercato Metropolitano line up sites in Atlanta, Boston, New York and Miami following negotiations with landowners who are not developers but wealthy individuals. They have bought into the thinking of the company and like the idea of leaving a legacy rather than just making more money.
“They do not want to lose money and although the initial focus [of the conversation] can be about money it moves onto values and ethical profits,” says Claris, adding that it is certainly not a choice between ethics and profits. In fact, he points to quite the opposite and says healthy trading and profitability is enjoyed by all the food providers within the markets.
The foremost characteristic demanded of the traders is having a similar set of values as Mercato. The company will supplement this with providing education that helps these trading partners deliver a more successful proposition. “Every single trader makes more margin than they would on the high street and without selling Coca-Cola and frozen foods. We provide the support to help them see there is another way of doing business,” he says.
Underpinning the success of the markets – that presently comprise Elephant & Castle and Mayfair ahead of the forthcoming openings of a farm/production facility at Elephant Park and a new complex in Ilford as well as various overseas openings – is a significant shift in thinking by consumers in the industrialised world. People’s new requirements are chiming with the proposition and ethos of Mercato.
“They are more concerned with where food comes from and the impact on the planet than the marble of the shopping centres of the [recent] past,” says Claris, who suggests retailers need to learn from this shift.
Taking what works in one city and replicating it in another and rolling out the proposition has worked in the past but today the priorities of people are different. “They want to know where there food is from, what is being contributed to the community, and they want a legacy to be left behind.”
According to Claris this is hardly a novelty and merely represents a return to what we had in the past and is the way people used to live. He suggests we have been derailed over the last 15 to 20 years by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and the large technology firms who lost sight of the fact “big business had been about creating a better today than yesterday.”
Although he is an advocate of using technology, Amedeo says it should not be used to replace the values of a traditional business with one that has a short-term model. The growing number of customers, traders and landlords of Mercato Metropolitano will no doubt agree.
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