Cornell researchers partnered with New York livestock farmers to analyze transactions at farmers’ markets, finding that sales were better on Sundays, early in the morning, and during certain months of the year.
The study, which researchers believe is the first peer-reviewed analysis of customer-level transaction data at farmers markets, gives new insights into how farmers can make markets more profitable for them.
The researchers and farmers used point-of-sale devices that record sales and process credit card payments to look at more than 26,000 transactions. The study was published in the Journal of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
It showed that, on average, farmers market customers spent more per purchase on Sundays compared to Saturdays. They bought more during the March, April, November, and December holidays.
The biggest sales were made at the beginning of the market or even before it opened, and then transaction totals declined substantially by hour thereafter. Ground beef was typically purchased in quantities of two pounds or more.
Customers also purchased more when paying with debit or credit cards. And when the number of transactions in a five-minute period increased, the dollars spent per transaction decreased.
“Traditional retailers like grocery stores have used scanner data for years to better inform how they should market to their customers,” said Todd Schmit, professor of applied economics and policy and co-author of the study. “For farmers, the data was just never available before. So now, with the advent of new technologies, we can bring that marketing power to the farmer.”
Farmers do not just vie for customers at the market; they also compete against grocery stores that carry local food products. Plus, earlier research showed that farmers’ markets are the worst-performing sales channel for vegetable farms in terms of sales per hour of marketing labor.
The findings lead to many specific recommendations to help farmers increase their sales. For example, farmers could attend more Sunday markets, increase product prices and volume during holidays, and bundle products like ground beef.