The Astoria Downtown Historic District Association recently conducted a brief survey to gain a better understanding of the challenges and strengths associated with doing business in Astoria, the motivation for being in business, and what operational changes a business might be able to do to meet the needs of local and out-of-town shoppers. This was a follow-up to the consumer survey that was distributed last spring to understand the factors that affect the experience of local shoppers. 106 responses to the survey were received. Below is the executive summary of the business owner survey results. This information was presented and discussed at ADHDA’s May general meeting this morning (Friday, May 4).
Business Owner Survey Overview
In an effort to better understand the challenges and strengths associated with doing business in Astoria, the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association (ADHDA) recently put forth a survey to gather information on this subject. Of special interest to the downtown association were the motivations for being in business and the potential operational changes a business might be able to make in order to meet the needs of local and out-of-town shoppers.
This was a follow-up to the consumer survey that was distributed last spring to understand the factors that affect the experience of local shoppers. 106 responses to the survey were received – 67% of which owned a business in Downtown Astoria .
The percentage breakdown of the responses to each measurable question in the survey is included in the pages following this overview.
GOAL 1: Understand Challenges & Strengths
The number one challenge associated with doing business in Astoria noted through this survey was parking, which seemed to be a bigger issue for downtown businesses. It is also interesting to note the fairly large number of respondents whose business is located in Downtown Astoria who rated convenience and visibility as challenges. Crime, codes, traffic, and noise all played relatively small roles, at least as far as being the main challenge – no downtown respondents selected this as their location’s biggest strength.
The biggest strength associated with doing business in Astoria was overwhelmingly noted as convenience, visibility and foot traffic combined. Both general responses and those from downtown business owners were very similar, except in the “close to home” category.
GOAL 2: Determine Primary Motivation
Over three-quarters of respondents said their business was either the primary or secondary income source for their family. Lifestyle played a slightly larger role for downtown business owners than for the general respondent population.
GOAL 3: Determine Potential Operational Changes
Hours: Over half of respondents would/could expand their operating hours if they believed they could increase revenue. It is important to note that 70% of respondents that owned a retail business and 75% of respondents that owned a restaurant said yes, they’d expand hours if revenue increased.
Marketing & Advertising: A very large number of respondents (88%) spend money on marketing. 76% of those respondents spend between one and ten percent of their annual sales on marketing, with most spending between one and five percent. A total of 36% of respondents claimed they spent more money on marketing in 2011 than in 2010 (half spent about the same).
Over three-quarters of respondents currently use local print media, over half use Facebook or other social media, and just under half use local radio. Local advertising seems to be very important to Astoria businesses because 61% of respondents track where their customers live, and of those respondents over one-third of them claimed that 51 to 75% of their customers were locals (within 30 miles).
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION GATHERED:
When asked “what would help your business thrive?” the top four responses were increased foot traffic, parking, better signage, and streetscape / better atmosphere. It is important to note that these are all things that we have some means of controlling, many of which are already being addressed by various local entities.
Lastly, there is an overwhelming positive outlook about future! Almost half of respondents said their business has grown over the past 12 months and almost three-quarters expect their business to grow in the next 12 to 36 months.
The ADHDA’s Business Development Committee will discuss next steps at its May meeting.
There is more survey work to be done, but the data gathered by ADHDA’s second survey provides a useful tool to ADHDA and its member businesses. While the goal of the downtown association is to improve the economic health of Downtown Astoria, this goal is also one that will benefit local consumers and visitors. An improved look and feel downtown, and enhancements made by downtown businesses will create a shopping ambiance for all to enjoy.
While some of the areas of improvement noted in the survey are outside the reach of the downtown association, its collective voice as an organization has gained strength though its present leadership and grant-funded resources. As its resources are able to grow, the ADHDA will continue to work collaboratively with other area organizations and municipalities to make downtown Astoria a premier consumer destination.