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Walk, Bike, Bus and Shop?

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When was the last time you thought to yourself - "Self, I wonder how my shoppers get to my store."?

Have you ever really stopped to think about it? I think most business owners would assume their customers are driving to their stores to do their shopping. 

In fact, a very interesting article I read recently shared results from a study that survey merchants on that very question. Apparently 70% of merchants surveyed believe between 11 - 75% of their customers came by driving. That is a huge variable, and it sounds completely reasonable to me. 

What surprised me was that a contrasting customer intercept survey found that only 10% actually drove!

This article forced my thinking-cap on; what would it mean to your business if your customers were really walking, biking or busing to do their shopping? Here was what I shared on my blog today:

I read the most fascinating article in Marketing Magazine recently. It was titled "Why Won't You Believe I Walked to your Store?" It is all about the new reality that many shoppers are leaving their vehicles at home. They are  walking, biking and taking public transit to shop. Fascinating, no? 

It is a Canadian magazine, written by a Vancouver, BC based writer, but don't let that dissuade you from reading the article. Much of his research deals with New York - a decidedly un-Canadian, un-West Coast city. This is happening all over the world - its not even just North America!

I pulled this interesting statistic straight from the article:

"Five years ago, New York City put the continent’s first protected bike lane on Ninth Avenue. Retail sales along the lane have increased 49%. Where the city replaced parking with public plazas, retail sales went up 120%."

Now that is astonishing! Is it time to start lobbying your city for a bike lane? 
Here is another tidbit I came across in the article: "going back to June 2005, vehicle use has gone down for almost 100 consecutive months in North America...the decline reaches 23% for 16-to-34-year-olds."

I even did some extra researching on this statement, and found a supporting article with interesting graphs and more fascinating figures.

So what does this mean for retailers in the Pool, Spa and Backyard industry? It means that there is an entirely new market waiting to be catered to, and your competitor's don't even know it exists (unless they read my blog as well)!

Here are a few ideas that might help; most suggestions are a mix of what I read in the article and experience from my own shopping life, sans voiture.
  • Offer Delivery Services - and feel free to charge for it. Shoppers like myself are glad to pay a reasonable premium for the convenience of not having to lug heavy awkward packages home on the bus, or be forced to call a cab or friend to help out.
  • Install a bike rack in front of your store
  • If you aren't currently in an area with heavy foot traffic, consider hosting a booth at a farmer's market, or opening a season booth or pop-up-store in a busier part of town
  • Offer plastic bag alternatives, like reusable cloth bags with shoulder straps, or hard plastic / wicker baskets for sale at the counter.
  • Sell bikes and bike accessories - this is a great complementary item to the lifestyles of pool owners, so why not make the most of it of a growing market!
  • Advertise your location - on your website make note of the nearest public transit stops, and any nice features nearby that your customers may want to visit after they take care of business
Ask your customers, when they come in, how they got there. Perhaps shoppers in our industry or to your location are not following this trend. But if they are, it will be very helpful for you to know. You can then suggest they visit more often, and purchase less in a single visit to make it easier to carry home. If this is the case, try to set them up on a schedule, so that you can send reminders when they need to visit you again. This would be helpful for them, and a safety net of sorts for you.

On the other hand, if they did drive, you can suggest the opposite - buy in bulk now in order to save on mileage and gas in the future. 
What do you think of this fascinating research? Leave your thoughts and suggestions below!

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