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02/01/2011 / korayozsoy

Current approaches in ‘nomadic retailing’: peddlers

This Sunday I took my time to walk quickly on Bagdat Avenue, one of the most well-known avenues in Istanbul. My focus was on peddlers to understand mainly what kind of problems they might face on the street and how intuitively they tried to overcome those. Since this was a quick walk, I did not want to have any conversation with them. I believed in my eyes and tiny camera instead ;).

'Simit' (known also as "Turkish bagel") is the most widely-preferred product for peddlers in Turkey

Bagdat (or Baghdat) Avenue is settled on the Anatolian part of Istanbul, Turkey. It is considered to be one of the most fancy neighborhoods in Istanbul. The entire avenue is 6 km long and it is surrounded by a bunch of famous stores, coffee and restaurant chains as well as relatively tall apartments. The street was full of people again.

Peddlers have an important role on this named avenue. They serve a vast range of products from flowers to shoestrings. One of them stands out among others not because of its popularity, but also its position within the Turkish society: Simit (Turkish Bagel).

Simit is a sort of bread in a circular shape. It has sesame seeds on and is usually served with tea, cheese and jam. This piece is very well-known especially for breakfast and snack moments in Turkey, as well as other European and Middle East countries like Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Lebanon (Ref: Wiki). As a consequence, it is unavoidable to see a Simit peddler almost in every corner on Bagdat Avenue.

Blue and white appear to be the official color combination that peddlers wear on. That makes it easy to notice them no matter how far you are. Apart from color combination as a commonality, they also share same problems when retailing on the street. More interestingly, they try to fulfill those through very similar intuitive methods. So, I call them “Improvised 3” to clarify the rest my story.

1- Managing

Peddlers face difficulties when trying to control their sales units considering especially the variety of elements they usually place in their units: simit, money, cheese and other ingredients, plastic bags, papers, personal belongings… That is mainly caused by ergonomics. As a result, almost each peddler need to have an extra wooden platform where they step on. So, they can easily reach their entire sales unit and elements. Another reason to do that might be climate-based. We all know how gentle our feet are when it is really cold outside ;). Thus, a fair distance between our feet and the ground might make a difference.

Wooden platform for better control and the chair

The need for a chair stands out as the second remarkable outcome. Those chairs totally look like separate elements that have no relation with the main sales unit. Peddlers usually prefer grabbing whatever they find that would suit their personal comfort.

Packing just before the end of the day

2- Cleaning

Peddlers usually start to pack their stuff before the sunset. Instead of integrating light solutions to take the advantage of evenings, they prefer closing their unit before the sun goes down. At that phase, cleaning has an important role as well as organizing leftovers. It requires simply a brush that is kept in the drawer of the sales unit. It is still difficult to manage the entire unit tough.

Cleaning shelves, the wooden platform and another chair

3- Storing

Maybe it is the most challenging problem for peddlers to keep their sales units with all the other elements in safe for the upcoming day. Once they complete cleaning, it is time to find a place and a solution to leave their unit alone on the street. But they should be really creative not to have surprises like having it stolen. Considering all the stuff they have, this issue really challenges them at the end of each day. The level of security and requirements is surely up to the neighborhood where they make their business, but below is a clear picture showing how wild things might go even on one of the most popular avenues in Istanbul.

Storage and security requirements

In the end of such a quick walk, I missed in general the idea of harmony between the sales unit, other elements (e.g. chair) and the environment. We can not ignore sales person regarding functionality. However, improving should not only consider the functionality, but also the visual appearance. We simply can not position this way of retailing isolated from the environment. The common color combination is a step to support this mentioned harmony, but there are still many things to be done. As designers, we do not necessarily have to create totally new ‘plastic’ objects to overcome these problems, but we can also show those people how to create better solutions by using what they already have at hand. This may take us to “ready-made” approach. By doing so, peddlers will be more aware of what they did so far and the future potential to improve their business. Maybe it is time for us to throw some stones into that ocean, isn’t it?

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