Reading Terminal Market launches $250,000 crowdfunding campaign to offset pandemic losses
Philadelphia Business Journal

Philadelphia’s historic Reading Terminal Market has launched a crowdfunding campaign for the first time in its 128-year history in efforts to offset losses from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Launched via online crowdsourcing platform GoFundMe, the campaign has a goal of $250,000 and will run through the end of 2020. As of early Friday afternoon, just over $11,000 had been raised from 116 people.

The cash will go toward helping the public market stay open seven days a week, maintaining peak HVAC and ventilation operations, and subsidizing the extra cleaning and disinfecting practices in place during the health crisis. The fund will also help one of the city’s most popular attractions continue offering its various events and community programs, such as nutrition programs and food rescue collaborations with other local nonprofits like Philabundance, said General Manager Conor Murphy.

With business down at the market amid the pandemic, Reading Terminal’s focus is on staying open with the same daily availability, he added. The market is in “no imminent danger of closing,” but leadership doesn’t “want to make any assumptions.”

In pre-pandemic times, the market does $60 million in annual sales. Like most businesses, the venue’s bottom line looks different this year.

Foot traffic at the nonprofit is down at least 50%, Murphy noted, with weekends being slightly busier than weekdays. Currently on Fridays and Saturdays, about 15,000 people are coming through the building from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pre-pandemic, daily weekend traffic would total between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors.

In April, when Philadelphia was under shelter in place orders, daily traffic was down to between 3,000 and 4,000 people per day.

Part of the decrease in traffic comes from a loss of tourists and out-of-towners visiting Philadelphia for conventions and other large-scale events, Murphy said. About 30% of Reading Terminal Market’s typical foot traffic comes from tourists.

The absence of travelers has “been the biggest impact” for the market, as the business from tens of thousands of would-be visitors evaporated for 2020, Murphy noted. Reading Terminal Market is a couple blocks from the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Many hotels also surround the convention center and public market, including the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Loews Philadelphia Hotel and new Canopy by Hilton Philadelphia Center City.

Reading Terminal Market is also an events hub on its own for weddings, festivals and community activities. Not being able to hold events has had a financial impact on the approximately 80 family-owned, small businesses at the market that would typically cater in-house events, Murphy said. Still, many canceled events were moved into 2021, when 60 events are currently on the market’s calendar.

During the pandemic, Reading Terminal Market has buckled down on its online delivery platform Mercato. Around the peak of the pandemic in March, the market had delivery demand skyrocket to 1,500 orders per day versus the typical 50 placed pre-coronavirus.

That demand has since stabilized to roughly 200 delivery orders per day, Murphy said, which is still higher than pre-pandemic times.

In the coming weeks Reading Terminal Market aims to expand its online offerings with curbside pickup options directly outside its doors. The nonprofit is in talks with city officials to implement the necessary parking lanes around the building that could facilitate the new offering, Murphy said.

Due to the pandemic, the market had to place its $1.1 million redevelopment of the 1100 block of Filbert Street on the back burner. It’s now targeting early 2021 to begin construction.

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