Sunday, November 2, 2014

Review: Qout Market :O(

I absolutely love the concept of helping small businesses grow, giving them a platform and encouraging entrepreneurs but I've been told the organisers of Qout Market are charging a whopping KD 250 for a table. How many jars of jam, gluten-free brownies, organic kale or kiddy's playdough do you have to sell to cover those costs? 

Sorry but you have overlooked the whole reason for a farmers market. Seems that huge cost is reflected in some of the grossly over-priced goods available. Which when you think about it is going to crucify a small business not help it. 

Has Qout Market become pretentious, expensive frou-frou? I think so.

And from another Qout shopper friend of mine -

I love the concept, last year I think was far better. A lot more hand-made handicrafts, etc. As well as yummy home made foods.

However, the prices this year were outrageous!

A wicker bag with paint splashed on it that cost KD 3 in Mubarikiya, 100fils bandana wrapped around the handles priced at a humongous KD 35 and
5 tacos for KD 16.. I really don't mind spending money but that's ridiculous!
Regarding the tacos she did add that they were delicious, but that's a lot of money for, essentially, street food. 

From a Qout vendor friend:

Over-priced stalls, one elevator for all vendors to use and transport their wares, loo on another floor, no help.

I know I shall get lots of flak for this post but hopefully this will be looked at as constructive criticism. 

Feel free to comment as anonymous if you are a vendor or shopper.


  1. I agree, last year I went....once.....traffic was horrible, it was so crowded, lines of people and others standing around admiring each other's LV purses. As you've said the prices are outrageous and yes 250KD is average when deal with the fru-fru folks. It's geared toward the people who don't have anything to do but spend, spend, spend on useless items. I doubt I will ever go back, I'd rather go to LuLu.

    1. If the organisers are not careful the fad will pass and die. How sad would that be.

  2. Yes! I agree! The whole original concept of a farmers market and helping small local businesses has been lost. I saw on social media that Williams -Sonoma had a stall !! Now that the concept has been accepted and proved a success in Kuwait, its time for someone who has the genuine interests of the vendors and the community at heart to take this idea and run with it ethically so that the prices are fair to sellers and customers alike. Other event organisers take note - When you get greedy and alienate the people who supported you when you started out, you risk killing the goose that laid the golden egg and also the respect of the community.

  3. Hi Linda, I went last year and decided not to go back again. Shopping between girls in her 20´s wearing Laboutin and Chanel bags, selling a packet of 5 biscuits for 8 kd and a cup of americano coffee for 2 kd was not my best place to be on a saturday morning. They told me that yesterday looked very good with much more unneeded things to buy and also at super expensive prices, I am with you, this is not the purpouse of a farmers market it looks more like a gathering of pretty ladies.

    1. True. Dressing up to go to a farmers market is just...odd.

  4. I´ll share it in my FB, it´s nice to see someone else criticising what goes on in Kuwait but me.
    Good work!

    1. I hope the organisers re-evaluate and re-focus. I like to be honest. My palms are not greased with invites, baskets of cookies and free dinners.

  5. I bought a nasty hotdog sandwich for 3 dinars and an amazing pecan pie for KD 10 so i guess you win some and lose some. With regards to the price of the stands, thats actually quite reasonable keeping in mind that Qout isnt for small startups and most of those participating make that much in a couple of hours and moreover having a stand there is all about marketing and PR of your brand, not just how much profit you can make in one day there.....

    1. Ooooh I love a good pecan pie and that's a fair price. My girlfriend bought a variety of ridiculously priced gluten-free snacks and brownies and some were inedible.

  6. I agree with you! I also went on Saturday full of expectation, it all looked very cool and beautifully decorated but I was horrified at the prices. More horrified that some people were actually paying them. A jar of pesto for 4.5KD!! Now that you have told us the table price I kind of see why they are charging so much but it goes against what a farmers market is all about! To me it was just fancy pants people all taking photos of the stalls to put on their Instagram accounts. Oh look at me I'm at the farmers market... more like the rip off market! Outrageous. X

  7. Jajaja, its funny we all have more or less the same image of the Qout Market. Although I would like to say, that this is not charity, its a business run by a Kuwaiti Lady, That´s all about falks! money money money... who cares about farmers?

  8. Hi, correction, the cost per booth or table is KD150 and not KD 250. Nevertheless KD 150 is still much too expensive for small businesses or farmers. How do you cover those costs and other costs involved in just 8 hours? It's no wonder the prices at Qout are so ridiculous. It's not fair to pass on these higher prices to customers. It has ceased to be a farmers' market and is more a forum for either big businesses or for those who can afford to lose KD 150 or more and not feel a thing. What is Williams Sonoma (with all due respect) doing at a farmers market? It's not just Williams Sonoma but other established businesses too that are there. I love Williams Sonoma don't get me wrong but they have no place at a farmers market. A farmers market is for small businesses and farmers to showcase their goods. I suppose the Qout girls had really good intentions but eventually everything here becomes 'Kuwaitized' and so is Qout. Its very very sad. Just go there in the evenings and you will see people just going there to strut their designer ware. The serious foodies and buyers usually come in the mornings. It's sad we thought Kuwait was changing, however, even though they try to change, it's just not possible for them to keep things simple. They have to take everything to the fanciest levels possible. Simplicity is sometimes the most charming and alluring. How do you get that into their psyche?

  9. hi, sorry but you were right the price per stall is KD 250 for the hot food section. The other vendors are charged KD 150 per stall.

  10. I've heard that 100KD or more is the usual price for a table in any marketplace where small businesses usually try to advertise at. I've never been to Qout though I've been planning to go this year.
    I'm glad I stumbled on this review, it's nice to see some people who share my views on this ridiculous frou frou event of overpriced, unoriginal products (well the majority at least).
    I've never been to a farmer's market abroad but I'm sure the things sold there are 10x cheaper than in Qout.
    As I've seen on their instagram the organizers have been to Farmers markets in the US and Europe so it makes me wonder why they charge so much for a spot.
    The blame can't be completely placed on them, some of the vendors who buy items and then resell them for more than double their price are lucky their items even get sold.
    I hope Qout only improves its regulations of the items sold their and the pricing policy for the vendors, I'm giving them a chance since it's only the beginning for them.

    1. Prices for Bazaars vary from KD17 upwards. Yes, let's hope the spirit of farmers markets lives on. Thanks for your comment. Are you going to the The English School Bazaar today from 2-5PM? Check the Christmas label tab on right side. Might I add that Qout is not the only one guilty of buying cheap stuff locally and reselling at bazaars/markets I bought some Christmassy candle holders only to find them at City Centre for half the price. And my husband bought me a beautiful shawl that the Indian woman said was hand-made, later I found out that it wasn't. So be warned these places are not regulated and no returns. Be discerning and haggle for a better price.

  11. Yikes!

    Looks like we stumbled upon this post a year or two too late. Really wished you would have reached out when writing it, we would have been happy to explain some things and help clear some stuff up!

    A stall at the market is 150KD. All stalls, street food or otherwise. If it's a kid's activity 50KD, we ask them to cap the activity fee at 1-2KD. If it's a medium-sized local company it's 300KD because it's not fair for them to pay the same prices as a start up. Farms get special pricing as they're the center of our interest. (And since farming is subsidized in this country, they have very little incentive to take part in a market.)

    No big brands are allowed to take part as a vendor. Not that they haven't tried. When you see someone like Williams-Sonoma, it means they are a partial sponsor.

    All these things help keep the price low even though our cost to run the market is high. 150KD is low in comparison to what it takes to pull off a single market.

    This hasn't changed from when you wrote this post.

    A little background:

    The market was started by two young women (and friends who bonded over the love of travel for food) in 2013 with only 20 vendors in the small patch of concrete and landscaping between the parking lot and mall entrance. We never knew people would react so resoundingly. Without advertising, a couple of thousand people showed up to our first tiny market, wiping out all the products within hours.

    With the second market scheduled just 3 weeks away, we had to go somewhere bigger. Looked up, decided on the parking lot, and moved to make it happen.

    We were charging 50KD for start ups and 85KD for slightly larger operations and we gave vendors chairs, tables, and electricity. Most chairs and tables never came back. Then it suddenly turned into a 100+ vendor market basically overnight, with all the added costs that came along with all the added operations.

    Yet there was a catch.

    We sold season passes to most of the vendors that locked in the price. And we didn't want to raise the price abruptly for everyone else. So we took the hit and announced the price raise ahead of time and that it wouldn't be implemented until the midpoint in the season.

    So what are we on about when it comes to the high cost of running the operations?

    Let's explain.

    It isn't, unfortunately, like the U.S. in Kuwait. So it isn't the same to run a farmers or food market here.

    For starters, it has to be made into a company. There is a lot of red tape to wade through and costs associated with just establishing the company and getting the paperwork done. We created an events company to be able to run the market.

    When you're a company, local law dictates that you must have an office. So there's monthly rent even when the market isn't running. We run only six months but pay rent for all 12.

    We own every bench, tent and chair you see. These are imported from America and cost a pretty penny.

    Farmers markets abroad involve vendors being responsible for their own set up, tent included. Being in Kuwait means people expect services. (Refer to complaint from vendor that there was no 'help'.)

    We used to give out chairs, even going so far as to place them in each person's stall for them. When we were on the rooftop we had over 100 stalls which means 200 chairs to purchase, then replace as they never come back or get damaged.

    Because it's an outdoor market, Mother Nature has come into play and wrecked a dozen tents in one fell swoop on more than one occasion. Benches have needed to be replaced as wear and tear set in.

    Then of course all this equipment has to be put into storage between markets and in the 6 months in between seasons. There again, is an overhead for every month of the year when we're only active for half.

  12. Ever wonder how on earth 10-15,000 people can come through without the place becoming a large pile of garbage? We purchase a LOT of garbage cans (which also sometimes get damaged or go missing, strangely enough, throughout the season) and pay a team of cleaners (plus overtime) to whisk the waste away. We went through an average of 750 bags of garbage in one market.

    Ever wonder how we're able to provide electricity to over 100 vendors on the rooftop of a car park? The electricity came via cables from the basement. Temporary distribution boxes were created on the rooftop from which electricity is distributed into individual plugs. Each plug is purchased. Electricians are paid, every wire is purchased, every plug and lightbulb accounted for.

    Then there are monthly printing costs. Branding is important at a market to capture shoppers and get them to come back by having it resonate. Foot traffic means sales for the vendors.

    As a temporary market occupying what is a space used for its normal purpose other days, all printing (like floor stickers) need to be removed then reprinted and installed for the following market. Mother Nature has also made her way through a range of costly printables.

    There's graphic design, and a website, and a programmer to create an online registration system with built in billing and accounting to streamline the process. (One that we are constantly pouring over and improving.)

    There are lawyers fees as agreements and contracts need to be created, reviewed and signed in order to protect our interests. Being successful in any capacity also makes you a target.

    An accountant is hired because being a company means you get audited, the lawyer kept on retainer for all the things that crop up. Perhaps for accompanying you to the police station when two vendors get into a fight and you are dragged into it when you try to mediate. (True story.)

    So when we involve a sponsor, it's to help with what is a never ending stream of bills even in months we don't operate.

    We do everything we can to keep the stall prices as they are without "selling out". Involving a single sponsor at a time was our compromise.

    It would have been much easier to accept sponsorship from whoever wanted to sponsor the market.

    We could hire an entire team and get a lot more sleep. But we don't. We stay on the grind running, managing and interacting with every vendor, third party, and government entity to this day. Oh the government paperwork.

    There's only two of us, and one of us has had a baby in the past year.

    We've felt and demonstrated a feeling of responsibility towards the community.

    Before our second season we put on an entire week of free food and lifestyle workshops of a high caliber called Nourish.

    We then launched the Farm Table initiative at cost, giving back to the community, farmers, and local food producers. We funnel all we have access to into our local food community.

    We're comfortable knowing that we conduct our market with integrity and forethought.

    As for the vendors -

  13. (Part 3/3)

    The market is curated. It's a combination of farmers, street food (think Smorbasburg) craftsmen, and artisanal product makers with a sprinkle of lifestyle (fitness, yoga, homeware, etc).

    The small section of premium are medium sized local companies who sell things like imported health food items that people seek out or something that can't be found of a certain quality locally.

    Then of course come the children's activities that come in at 50KD so they can afford to run activities but keep them reasonably priced.

    Everyone needs to be patient with the vendors. The concept of a farmers market is new to Kuwait. Not all of our vendors have had the privilege of traveling and being immersed in the culture of markets. The market is their platform to test their product and interact with customers (often for the first time.)

    They are small-batch producers, which means they can't buy their ingredients in bulk, can't produce in bulk, and can't package in bulk. Many of their ingredients are imported and expensive (not true for all, but most.) Their running cost is high and they rely on feedback to work on and improve their product. Maybe some of them have no idea how to price things and are just winging it.

    Calling it a 'community' market means there is responsibility on both ends. They rely on feedback, and so give it to them! If you are so bothered about a price that you think is disproportionate to what you are getting, strike up conversation. If you think a food item has room for improvement, tell them nicely, help them improve

    Come market day most are functioning on very little sleep, staying up for days producing up a storm.

    We do our best to screen incoming vendors with the application process, asking for images, branding and exact menu of offerings. We keep adding more terms to ensure things aren't misrepresented before making it in.

    Every once in a while, some will squeak through. We make rounds and do checks. Ask anyone who has been a vendor, we're sure they can attest to that fact.

    A handful have made it into the big leagues - opening a store or restaurant. We often give support in all forms, ranging from a post to volunteering to be a waitress until their staff get sorted.

    We are very much dedicated to changing the fabric of our local community and culture.

    It's not easy, and we are doing our best, but it will take involvement from the community to help mold it into its future form.

    From an outsiders perspective it all looks so easy and maybe comes off as underserved but we pour every bit of our being into this project.

    We function with the utmost integrity and agonize over the smallest of decisions. Well aware of our (unwitting, mind you) impact on the country we've sacrifice health, sleep, mental well-being and family time to create a platform that is of use to our local community.

    It is what our community makes of it.

    This is the longest possible response to a post, ever. But there's just so so so much that goes into it that nobody ever sees.

    We may look like happy ducks bobbing along the surface but you can bet we are paddling like mad under the water, battling currents and gravity.

    If you ever want to know something - email and ask! We're open books.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to answer. Always nice to understand the bigger picture. Good luck at the new location.


Always great to hear from you :O)