Peggy Byrne, owner of Bowerbird, acquired the popular market a month before COVID hit in early 2020. Peggy tells us about the challenges and learning curves they’ve faced over the last few years, about finding new designers and also what to expect at the next market in May.
Tell us about your life and career leading up to your purchase of Bowerbird Design Market in 2019.
I really started a career in advertising and marketing in my mid 20s. I moved overseas for many years and worked in Europe and America, and back to Australia. Then I joined a Formula One team based in Germany where I organised sponsor events at races and off the track. This lead me to heading up the events department at the Yas Marina F1 circuit in Abu Dhabi for a few years before coming home to Adelaide.
My CV didn’t really resonate in Adelaide but I did a lot of temp work including at the Adelaide Festival Centre which was a great way to get back in touch with South Australia and the arts. In 2014 I became the Event Manager for Tasting Australia.
Furthermore, what was your motivation and interest in Bowerbird?
I’ve always found events really rewarding, creating an experience for people to enjoy. I also love to promote small businesses, because those people give their all. I found that was what I loved about Tasting Australia the most and that is what I love about Bowerbird. Giving small businesses a platform to showcase how amazing they are and how we as consumers can spend our money better, with more purpose and having direct impact on those we buy from. Ensuring your purchase is not just a transaction.
How has your Bowerbird experience been so far – taking into consideration COVID and other impacts to the market over the last 3 years?
We purchased the business the month before COVID hit. So there were some “rocking in the corner” moments. But what I want to remember about that time is the incredibly steep learning curve the situation forced me to take.
I had to understand the logistics of the event quickly because I had to adapt it to the situation. Changing the aisle width, adding the extra open spaces for line ups, creating a ticketing system for online purchases. All of these things changed the event quite a bit. But we knew we had to keep running to create opportunities for our vendors.
COVID forced the cancellation of all similar eastern state events in 2020 and most of 2021 which meant makers lost up to 80% of their regular income. The event is so important to makers and the support from our customers is truly wonderful. Overcoming the early challenges gave us the energy to push through the hurdles that came later and that still impact us today.
How do you identify and adapt to changes in the market, and what strategies do you use to stay ahead of the curve?
There’s no doubt that people’s buying decisions are much more considered in today’s environment. But I am a believer in spending wisely, not widely.
Purchasing a vase that was hand thrown by a local small business has far more value to me than one that was moulded and manufactured by the thousands. The purchase of that single hand made vase will help the maker directly. You will be helping someone you have just met directly. That to me is making money more valuable.
So, in terms of changes, we focus on having a great mix of price points and products, we make sure the event has a relaxed atmosphere so no one feels rushed and we give visitors the opportunity to get to know the vendors, hear their stories so they can gain a fuller experience and get added value out of their purchases.
Likewise, how do you identify and find new artists and designers?
Talented designers are everywhere. We put a call out through our social channels of course, but often we come across makers organically. I might drive to the Barossa one day or be in Melbourne and come across a great product. I always look at the label and research their story. I’ve found many that way, and often markets were not on their radar.
Tell us about the next market, what should punters be looking forward to?
Our next event in May has a fantastic line up. We have quite a few new designers to Bowerbird and many that are exclusively found at Bowerbird in SA. There are some great knits and winter fashion, beautiful homewares to make your nest cosy, amazing artisanal jewellers and of course great produce to taste.
Our mobile drinks trolley will be roaming around so no one needs to leave the market floor to line up for a drink at the bar if they just want to sip and shop.
Similarly, will there be anything new or different about the next market?
The Bowerbird Art Exhibition will return. Last May we added this to our lineup which was really well received. Artists from all over South Australia will be exhibiting in a 30×30 framed system. Their pieces will be mixed up and displayed side by side in a wall of small frames for the public to view, as a whole and individually. Every piece will be for sale and our curator, Nicole Black, will be on hand to help visitors find just the right piece.
We are encouraging people to pre purchase tickets online with a competition. Each week, one ticket holder will win a $100 voucher to spend at the May event. Only tickets purchased before 1 May will go in the draw. One winner announced each week.
5 – 7 May 2023
Adelaide Showground, Wayville