Monday, July 18, 2011

Silver Spring Econ: Fenton Street Market

The Fenton Street Market is a weekly craft fair held in downtown Silver Spring in the plaza in front of the civic building. Until recently the Fenton Street Market paid the county $50 for use of the space. Now the county wants to increase the rent to $1,200 a week. With 60 vendors at the market each week this works out to be $20 per vendor per week increase. However, this price increase may lead to the closing of the market as an online petition suggests with this price increase the market will close.

I'm not the first to do the math. In response to this the Fenton Street Market Blog says "Most aggravating to me, I’m being asked by some who have done the basic math on our business–60 vendors a week x $40 a booth space x 30 weeks a year–why we can’t afford $35,000 or more a year in rent. What about insurance, advertising, a website, signage, staff, taxes, credit card fees? What about the things that make the Fenton Street Market special: local artists playing music, nonprofits exhibiting, the model trains and other kid-friendly activities, the Community Roundtable discussions?"

I'm not sure where I fall on the issue as an economist and Silver Spring local. I haven't bought much at the market maybe a book or two, but it is nice to have there to walk around. To help clarify I wonder.

Have the vendors been surveyed, to see if they would pay $20 more a week for both space?

How much more could Fenton Street Market pay and still stay open?

Finally, Fenton Street Market also put out an economic impact report. These type of reports are outside of my specialty of economics, but I do have a couple of comments.

The receipts for the market are estimated at 1.5 million dollars a year, based on $50,000 in sales on the date of the survey. Was the day of the survey typical for sales, the study notes the survey was taken on June 25th a sunny day. Would we expect lower sales on rainy days in April or higher sales for other days?

Second the estimated impact includes people shopping at local businesses when they go to the market. The survey of 129 shoppers found 41% said the market was their primary reason for going to downtown Silver Spring. How did the study control for people who would have shopped downtown even without the market?

Finally, how representative where the 129 people surveyed?

These are all questions I ask myself before I can say how much the Fenton Street market should pay.

Overall though, I enjoy having the market there and hope it stays.

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