Thursday, July 30, 2009

District Recession Survey – Results are In!

Thank you for a great response. This survey was distributed to over 2,000 practitioners in the field of commercial district management and revitalization all around the country. These findings help highlight the challenges that many of our commercial districts are facing. Here’s a quick run-down of the results, including who’s feeling the pinch and who’s doing well despite the downturn.

Who Responded?

Survey respondents included:

  • 50% - Community-Based Organizations
  • 25% - Business Improvement Districts
  • 12.5% - Main Street Programs
  • 12.5% - Other

Commercial Districts fell into the following categories:

  • 62.5% - Primarily Convenience Retail
  • 31.2% - A Mix of Convenience and Specialty Retail
  • 6.2% - Primarily Specialty and Destination Retail

What did they say?

69% of respondents believe that the economic crisis is moderately affecting their district, while the remaining 31% believe that the crisis has significantly affected their district, resulting in sales decrease of more than 25%.

75% of respondents report their districts have seen an increase in vacancies, while 43.7% have seen more graffiti and vandalism. More loitering and petty theft and crime are affecting 31% of the corridors.

Businesses are Getting Creative

A number of respondents shared with us how their businesses are facing these difficult challenges. In some cases, restaurants are doing more promotion and hosting night activities to maintain the consumer flow. In others, merchants are increasingly taking advantage of free marketing via emails and networking, or have stepped up marketing by offering free samples, book readings, musical performances, specials, etc. These efforts seem to be paying off.

Some store owner's are also getting innovative and partnering with other store owners to share commercial spaces. In one case, a hair salon and a barber shop decided to combine their spaces to avoid rent increases and share the cost of rent and utilities. This was clearly a win-win for the neighborhood and the business owners. The salon was a much needed neighborhood service, and both stores were able to reduce their operational costs in the process.

Some Retail Sectors are Doing Better than Others

People are sticking to buying the basics. Respondents indicated that fast food chains, simple low-priced diners and restaurants, and grocery stores are maintaining or seeing less of a drop in their sales volumes despite the downturn.

Another respondent noted that car repair businesses and the local hardware store have seen slight increase in sales, likely due to people opting to maintain their cars and current homes rather than trading up at this time.

Thanks to everyone who responded - and keep checking the blog for more great articles and research!

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