On Monday, February 26th, 2018, Nipawin News conducted a Shop Local Survey of 100 respondents. Respondents where given ample opportunity to not only answer questions, but to provide input through comments and the results have some very interesting insights into how both local residents and business owners view the issue of shopping local. Respondents to the survey clearly indicated a large product selection, competitive prices, good customer service and the creation of local jobs are the top consideration when choosing to shop local.
Of the 100 people who participated in the survey, 23 acknowledged they were business owners or managers. Overall, many of those business people reflected similar values when compared to non business owners, however, in a few key aspects, their opinions did not reflect those of the non-business owning respondents. For that reason I am providing some break downs so that the differences are shown.
Sense of Obligation
The question “When you think about “Shop Local”, how does that make you feel?” highlights the first of those differences of opinions.
89% of all respondents indicated that they either fully support shopping local or at least feel they have an obligation to do so, however almost half of those people (48%) felt that the local businesses needed to earn that support.
While 61% of business owners selected the answer, “I fully support shopping local and I feel I have an obligation to support our local businesses“, only 35% of non business owners felt the same way. Those that felt businesses needed to earn their support was highest among non business owners at 55%, with 39% of the business people expecting the same standard.
Overall, the majority of respondents indicated they want to shop local and make a conscious effort to do so whenever they can. While not one person indicated they resented the “Shop Local” campaigns, some resentment does appear to exist in some of the comments provided. For some, there was a perceived implication that they were obliged to settle for what is available locally, even if it did not suit their needs to their satisfaction.
Two respondent’s comments sums up what several had indicated;
“I fully support shopping local for items that are AVAILABLE in their stores and if it is the product I want or need. For example: I want toaster brand A – a local business only sells toaster brand B. I don’t feel I need to purchase brand B just because that is what is available locally.”
“Shopping local is great if you are (looking for) something that a business carries regularly. Some things you will never be able to purchase locally so we shouldn’t be made to feel bad about not supporting local business.”
This sense of obligation is that Shop Local campaigns create, as some respondents implied, a guilt factor, particularly for those who truly wish to shop local as much as they can.
Obligation Goes Both Ways
Another factor that influences consumers desire to shop local, is the perception that some local businesses expect the consumers to shop local yet their actions do not always reflect the same standard for themselves. A few comments from respondents indicated they don’t feel the same businesses who are asking them to shop local are doing so themselves. As one respondent pointed out;
“we support people who do not support each other ie. local business owners“
Two respondents gave a specific example of seeing local business owners or their spouses partaking in organized out-of-town weekend shopping trips, which highlights the “do as I say, not as I do” perception.
While the concern about whether or not the businesses themselves feel obliged to shop local is presented by some, there is an indication that the business owners and managers that participated in the survey may actually hold shopping local to a higher standard than some local consumers perceive. One indicator of this is the response to the question, “Is there anything local businesses could do to encourage you to shop local more often?” 39% of business owners felt it was important to “Support local producers, tradespeople and artisans by carrying local products“, while only 32% of non-business owners indicated that would encourage them to shop locally.
The true irony in that single response is that it reflects a very different standard among all respondents than the rest of the survey indicated. With the average settling out at 33% it raises the question; Why do 89% feel we should shop local, 48% feel businesses should earn that business, and yet only 33% feel one of the ways they can do that is by supporting local producers, tradespeople and artisans by carrying local products? It’s rather mystifying double standard in that, while that 89% felt shopping local was important, a mere 1/3 included those local products as a condition that would entice them to support local businesses.
This raises many questions, the most important ones being, is it possible some local residents hold home based businesses to a different standard than retailers based in commercial properties? Do those same residents feel less obligated to patronize those businesses off main street and other commercial areas based on their lack of commercial store fronts? Or is it just a simple oversight, a conditioned response to include only store front and retail enterprises when thinking of supporting local businesses and unknowingly omitting our local manufacturing and service businesses?
There is no doubt this aspect needs to be looked into more and will be a high priority when I select the next survey topics.
Do businesses have more confidence in SHOP LOCAL campaigns than consumers?
Looking at who feels they are likely to be influenced to shop local by a campaign, only 31% of the consumers felt such a campaign would somewhat and very likely influence them, which contrasts with 52% of business owners feeling the same way. A large portion were neutral, (neither likely or unlikely) with 39% of consumers and 35% of business people opting for that answer.
On the other end of the scale, 27% of consumers vs. 13% of business people felt they would be either somewhat unlikely or very unlikely to be influenced by a shop local campaign.
What is missing here, and likely provides an inaccurate result, is public perception of a shop local campaign. A prime example of that might be Nipawin’s well known “Big Win” promotion. While business owners may acknowledge it as a shop local promotion, some consumers may view it as merely a contest. That is not a bad thing though, because the most successful shop local efforts often are the ones that provide welcomed incentives rather than just a Shop Local chant. It begs the question, if consumers where given examples of actual shop local campaigns, would their responses be more in line with the confidence the businesses have in those campaigns? Yet another topic we need to look into deeper.
Nearly half of the consumers felt that they support shopping local however they still expect businesses to earn their shopping dollars.
Shopping local means limited choices – Consumers want a larger selection of products
78% of the respondents felt shopping local gives them limited choices, 82% when you look at only those who do not own or manage a business, yet only 65% of business people felt that way. Why is that? Are those 35% of business owners truly satisfied with the local selection, or is it that they have a lower expectation because they are aware of how difficult it is for their fellow business owners to provide that larger selection?
Some respondents pointed out, though, that the lack of selection was not necessarily a volume of inventory issue.
“I shop local when I can. When there are 3 bargain stores with low quality clothing and 3 with high priced clothing , you can be sure I am taking a weekend trip to the City to find mid price stores.”
“…Another thing we are told is to ask stores to order things in that we want. That is not a solution if they don’t carry the product or if you need it immediately (like parts for an emergency repair that cannot wait).”
“Larger selection and more competitive pricing would be nice, but not always feasible. Then business owners might be left with outdated or “dead” stock.”
Prices a conflicting issue
While typical conversations may give one the impression that prices might be the top issue causing local shoppers to take their business to the city or order online, that may not be as clear cut as one might think. One thing is very clear though, of those that responded, the business people appear far more satisfied with local prices than those non-business owning consumers.
“Shopping local is too expensive” was a drawback for 53% of those consumers, yet only 13% of the business people. Reflective of that sentiment, only 16% of consumers felt shopping local saves them money compared to 30% of the business people.
The interesting twist comes with when it’s applied as a factor in the question, “Is there anything local businesses could do to encourage you to shop local more often?” More competitive pricing appeals to a higher percent in both groups with 66% of consumers indicating that would encourage them to shop local, an increase of 13% over how many thought it was too expensive. The question to ask here is, do those 13% that did not indicate local shopping was too expensive mean they don’t just want our local businesses to meet non local prices, but even beat them?
But it is the business people who’s response was more extreme. Their jump from only 13% who felt shopping local was too expensive, to 35% who indicated that more competitive prices would encourage them to shop local. Throughout the survey, the business people show a consistent conservative view of local shopping issues, with this selection being the only real variation. By conservative, I refer to their own inside knowledge of the realities of running a business in a small community shows in their answers.
“I grew with shop local but when prices for almost everything are cheaper out of town. Money talks and we go out of town.”
“If I can get it quickly, for much cheaper, I will shop out of town in a heartbeat. If local comes close, I’d like to support local”
“I would love to shop local however the prices are too high mostly and it’s cheaper to go to the city to shop”
Customer Service an important factor
Another aspect of the survey where consumer and business owner’s differ greatly. While 78% of the business owners indicated “I appreciate the personalized service I get when I shop local“, that percent drops to only 38% for consumers. Local businesses should be very concerned about this because that personalized service is one area that small community businesses have an advantage over their big city and online competition. Do you need to focus more on this? Or is it not that the personalized service isn’t there, but rather those 62% of consumers just don’t think it’s important? This is another aspect I will definitely explore more in a future survey.
The business owners who responded made it very clear they hold a higher standard for customer service than the consumers participating in the survey. While that 78% appreciated that personalized service, 52% still felt better customer service was the second most important thing other businesses could do to encourage them to shop local. Only 26% of the consumers felt the same way, placing more importance on selection and prices.
“I am very happy with all the businesses that I shop at.”
“Some store employees could definitely be friendlier, give better service, and act like they appreciate our business.“
“…if customer service is poor are we expected to shop at a business just because it is local and it supports the community?“
“Stop treating customers like they interrupted your lunch and you don’t like it. At 9:00 am.”
“Places that close at noon!! Stay open please, it’s the only time of day I have off.”
“I enjoy the local employees .Most of them know you by name and go out of there way to help”
Very few consumers have concerns with quality of purchased products
While limited questions about the quality of products where a part of the survey, only 32% of all respondents wanted to see a higher quality of products carried but local businesses, and only 4% felt quality was a consistent issue.
“If they can order higher quality of items in they should let customers know“
Businesses giving back to the community
Local job creation is vital to consumers and businesses alike. Job creation was by far the most important factor that both consumers and local business owners agreed on. When asked about the benefits of shopping local, the fact that it creates jobs was important to 72% of consumers and even more important to business owners at 91%.
A small portion of consumers, 11%, felt businesses needed to treat their employees better to gain their business and even 9% of those business people felt the same way. One comment reflected another interesting aspect of those jobs created;
“Would like to see local businesses hiring more full time (with benefits) people and less part timers.”
Business support of local non-profits
This is another area where respondents seem mostly satisfied with the efforts of local businesses, in fact it was the business people themselves that showed a slightly higher expectation for businesses to show support for local non-profits. 11% of the consumers wanted to see more support while 13% of business people felt more support was warranted.
One only needs to attend a few events in Nipawin area to see the abundant contributions made to the local organizations by our local businesses. There is no doubt we have a generous business community and those organizations do a good job of ensuring they thank their sponsors.
But, just as consumers feel business owners have an obligation to also shop local, business owners and consumers alike would like to see more of those organizations and their members supporting the businesses that sponsor them.
“Teams and organizations should also shop locally as place give the donations and support and don’t receive it back“
“Local businesses are expected to support local activities, we need to support them in return“
When you think “shop local”, where do you draw that line?
One respondent’s comment raises an interesting point. How do we define local?
“I live in Carrot River. Several times a month I need to get something in Nipawin that I can’t get in C.R. while I am getting that one or two things I need, I tend to shop for other things as well. Often I end up spending quite a bit in Nipawin. Just want you to know it works both ways.”
So for this person, they see Carrot River as local and a trip to Nipawin as taking their business out of town. Everyone has a different perception of shopping local. While one might think “Shop Local” in Nipawin is exclusive to main street, the next person might feel local includes the businesses in Nipawin and in the smaller surrounding communities, such as White Fox or Choiceland. Heading off to Prince Albert to go shopping might be clearly not local, but what about a trip to Tisdale? Is that is that still local to you?
And when residents of Carrot River or Tisdale come to Nipawin to shop, are they taking their business out of their town or are they still local shoppers because they fall within an accepted trade area?
Food for thought!
Despite providing these useful insights, the survey has also highlighted a need to delve further into the issue. Using information gathered in this survey, Nipawin News will be conducting more surveys that look into each of the topics covered individually as well as points raised through respondent’s feedback.
I want to thank those Nipawin News followers who participated in the survey. You enthusiasm to get involved is greatly appreciated!