Joining CUI host Ariana Holt for our next session in our ongoing series: How have visit patterns changed on main streets? – are presenter Rupen Seoni, Senior Vice President and Practice Leader at Environics Analytics; Kevin Narraway, Marketing Manager at the Municipality of Port Hope; Graziella Grbac, the Executive Director of the Village on Main in Dartmouth Nova Scotia; and David Pensato, the Executive Director of the Exchange District in Winnipeg. This session is co-presented with Environics Analytics.
How have visit patterns changed on main streets?
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. Data drives understanding
Data analytics has a role to play in determining who shops where, how far they will travel, and what they are looking to buy. Understanding these commercial patterns are key to adapting main streets to changing conditions. Rupen Seoni, Practice Leader at Environics Analytics, contends that knowing one’s target population and the direction of economic trends can lead to better decision making when it comes to allocating hundreds of millions of investment dollars.
2. Going beyond demographics
Data analytics can go beyond basic demographic considerations such as socioeconomic status, age and ethnicity. Psychographics delve into the way people think by looking at personality, values, opinions, interests and attitudes. Combining demographics with psychographics builds a more complete picture of the factors that drive consumer behaviours. Environics Analytics’ PRIZM project has classified each of Canada’s 800,000 postal codes one of sixty-seven evocative lifestyle types. These profiles provide main street businesses a better understanding of the characteristics of their immediate markets so retailers can understand better their market.
3. Different main streets, different experiences
Main streets come in different forms and serve different functions. Seoni categorized CUI’s nine focal main street subjects into three categories: Central Business Districts, Non-Downtown Main Streets, and Small Town Main Streets. Comparing 2020 visits to pre-COVID 2019 levels reveals that streets of each category experienced different levels of decline and recovery. Tourism focused main streets have seen their transient patrons disappear while main streets that support local residents have fared much better. Each main street has its own configuration of assets and disadvantages that require a custom-tailored approach to recovery.
4. “Close in matters more than ever.”
Environics Analytics’ findings reveal that the amount of time people spend away from their home postal codes and the distances they travel are at levels much lower than before the pandemic. Main streets are increasingly becoming dependent on their immediate local markets. According to Seoni, any pandemic recovery strategy should be rooted in “local decisions that need local action and local information to help support that mission.” By better understanding the local market, main streets can tailor their services and wares to the needs of that market.
5. Improving Connectivity and Access
Increasing traffic is a key measure of success for main street recoveries. For main streets to survive the pandemic intact there is a need to get people to come out and support local businesses. David Pensato, Executive Director of the Exchange District BIZ in Winnipeg, speaks of the creation of a bike loop connecting seven adjacent neighbourhoods to the district. Kevin Narraway, Marketing Manager at Port Hope, implemented a shop local campaign. Improving convenient physical access to main streets combined with marketing campaigns can be effective ways to increase local traffic.