Coffee shop concessionaires in Helsinki market squares declare this year has been one of their best ever.
Similarly, market vendors running berry stalls have been laughing all the way to the bank—while an increasing number of young people hanker after health-boosting berries, not many of them are up for a forest trek to gather the valuable fruit.
Other vendors tell a different story.
“When I started this 26 years ago, the market square was full of people and stands. Now tastes have changed and we market vendors are a disappearing national tradition. Even this summer sales have been 30 percent lower than last year,” said Unto Tarvainen, a vegetable vendor in Helsinki’s well-known Hakaniemi market square.
Supermarket shopping becoming the norm
According to Timo Taulavuori, the man managing the 600-odd market vendors in Helsinki’s wholesale markets, one reason for the disparate experiences among vendors is the fact that people are increasingly coming to the market mainly to meet up with their acquaintances. When they want to purchase food, they head to the large supermarket chains.
Taulavuori pointed out that this year’s cold summer has brought large numbers of people from their summer cottages to the market place, providing a bumper crop of consumers for vendors offering coffee shop and restaurant services.
“It’s good that people are more actively patronising the markets. We still have to look after the welfare of our foodstuff vendors, though. If people are buying their food exclusively from the supermarkets, sales of fish and vegetables will disappear from the markets altogether,” he cautioned.
Truth is in the numbers
In Finland there are no official statistics to track how market sales or consumer tastes and visits have changed over the years. Instead, people rely on word of mouth and gut feeling to develop the market trade and combat the influence of the giant supermarket chains.
“I have myself lamented this fact. However the problem is that there is no kind of organisation of marketplace selling. Apart from that, keeping statistics requires resources,” Taulavuori noted.