Town’s Economic Development Task Force survey pinpoints improvements | DrumhellerMail
Last updateTue, 18 Jun 2024 12pm

Town’s Economic Development Task Force survey pinpoints improvements

    The Economic Development Task Force has released the results of the shopping survey sent out to residents earlier this year.
    The survey was mailed to residents and was available online, and asked ten questions aimed at getting an accurate picture of how often residents leave the valley, what goods/services they are purchasing, and why.
    “There’s information for the downtown merchants to see what people want and their perceptions,” said Councillor Sharel Shoff.
    Three hundred surveys were completed out of the three thousand that were sent out, a return of 10 per cent.
    “It’s a high percentage, usually it’s under three per cent,” said Shoff. “But, we have no idea of the demographics of who replied.”
    In regards to how many respondents did their Christmas shopping in Drumheller in 2010, 46 per cent replied yes.
    A third of respondents increased the shopping they do out of town. Forty per cent have also increased the amount of online shopping they do.
    Respondents identified clothing as the number one item they shop for out of town. Specifically, brand name clothing and a diverse selection are what shoppers seek.
    Bulk, specialty, and ethnic groceries came in second, followed by hardware, building supplies, shoes, household items, and furniture.
    Respondents indicated a desire for a bakery and bookstore as well.
    The survey was able to identify why respondents are going beyond the valley to shop. Prices are deemed too high in Drumheller and a lack of selection.
    Downtown was criticized for having an uninviting appearance and for having restrictive hours. The perception among respondents was that shops downtown close just when most residents get off work.
    “The respondents told us they feel downtown should be a leader in retail,” said Diana Rowe of the Economic Development Task Force. “That’s a surprise because we didn’t ask questions that reference downtown.”
    Ninety five per cent of respondents went out of town for medical and other professional services.
    Respondents were also asked how often they went out of town for entertainment. Of those who responded, 42 per cent went one to three times a year, 23 per cent four to seven times, and 18 per cent went out of the valley twelve or more times a year.
    The information collected from the survey will be used to enhance the local shopping experience, particularly in downtown.
    “It’s an opportunity for the businesses to look at the services they are providing, their hours, and if there is something more they can do,” said Rowe.
    The report suggests that small improvements to the downtown area could go a long way to attract visitors. Adding floral arrangements, removing litter, and improving building facades are some areas to work on.
    There are other areas to improve upon as well.
    “It’s all about the shopping experience,” suggests Shoff. "A lot of times people will go somewhere because of that experience, they’re happy, they feel comfortable.
    “We found that customer service and satisfaction are 80 per cent of the solution, ahead of selection,” continued Shoff. “That gives loyalty to your business and if someone needs something, they’ll come to you first.
    “Perhaps more of the stores should have a greater internet presence,” said Shoff. “They need to use social media, because that’s what people use these days.”
    There may be other directions to take when improving downtown. It was suggested by councillor Tom Zariski to have downtown closed to traffic and change the emphasis in the area.
    “The idea is that we want people to come downtown, but competing with the large box stores is difficult,” said Zariski. “Other communities who rely on tourism have turned their downtown into a tourist destination.”
    The idea has been brought up repeatedly over the years. Downtown would have patios for restaurants, galleries, some retail, and generally provide a historic downtown experience.
    “Whether we would do it here, I don’t know,” continued Zariski. “There’s all sorts of potential there that I’d like to explore.
    “We want to put a positive message on shopping in Drumheller.”
    The results of the survey will be circulated to the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses. From there, the results may be used to develop strategies to encourage residents to shop locally.
    “The survey is good for some information,” said Zariski. “Taking the results of the survey and to suggest a need, that’s where the danger comes in.”
    “The survey speaks of opportunity,” said Rowe. “It’s up to the businesses now, all we can do is share the information.”

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