Survey Shows Where We Shop For Widgets

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It's no secret that Rim country residents do a lot of their shopping outside the area, but thanks to preliminary results from a newly completed consumer survey, local government and business leaders now have a better idea what they buy and why they buy it.

In all 10 product categories surveyed, the most frequent reason for shopping elsewhere was price, while the most frequent reason for buying locally was availability/convenience. The other option participants were given was service.

Heading the list of products most frequently purchased outside the Rim country is computers, with 70 percent of area residents going elsewhere to meet their computing needs. At the other end of the scale, the product purchased least frequently outside the Rim country is apparel, with fully 80 percent of area residents indicating they had bought clothing, shoes, or other apparel items locally in the past 18 months.

The consumer survey is one of three studies currently being completed by the Business Retention and Expansion Committee of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce chaired by Judy Miller, assistant coordinator of the Small Business Development Center at EAC-Payson. Miller's committee was assisted by the Chamber Ambassadors Committee and the Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation.

"At this point, we just have preliminary results from the consumer survey," Miller said. "It was designed to tell us why people go elsewhere and what they buy."

The second survey will indicate what the business community and local government can do to help Rim country businesses be more competitive.

The third survey will help to determine why local businesses go under.

The one-page, mail-in consumer survey, placed at a number of local businesses, asked respondents what they had purchased in the last 18 months, whether it was purchased locally or out of the area, and what factors determined that purchase.

"The rationale behind doing this survey," according to Chamber CEO Tom Kaleta, "is that once we get the data indicating that every month X amount of people go out and buy widgets in Phoenix and why they do so, then we can try to attract a widget store to the Rim country or we can help existing businesses better meet the needs of local residents."

Kaleta explained that in the past the Chamber has conducted retail leakage studies, "but they only confirmed what we already knewthat a lot of people leave town to shop.

"Without knowing what they bought and why they bought it, that information wasn't doing us a whole lot of good," he added.

One of the surprises the consumer survey produced was that a relatively high percentage of locals make fine jewelry purchases in the Rim country rather than going elsewhere.

Another interesting category was vehicles, with 51 percent of those surveyed indicating they bought locally.

"What was interesting," Kaleta said, "is that availability is the biggest factor in the decision making process. People will buy cars up here if they can get what they want."

A full presentation of the survey results will be made to the Payson Town Council at an upcoming council meeting, Kaleta said. He also said the three surveys are another step in the process of changing the local chamber's focus from that of a producer of festivals to that of an advocacy group looking out for the interests of its 600 business members.

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