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Our view: Downtown retailers should focus on locals

Residents can do their part by shopping locally

Published on October 10, 2017 12:01AM

Last changed on October 10, 2017 10:41AM

While some people may believe tourists dominate the downtown Astoria shopping scene, a recent study dispels the perception and offers the business community solid information to act upon.

The analysis, commissioned by the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association, shows two-thirds of the people entering downtown’s shops and restaurants are locals rather than tourists, and nearly half of the locals are from Astoria. The study also points out that downtown residents and the estimated 1,300 people who work there comprise the largest segment of estimated consumer spending. Visitors are the second largest segment, but spend more per customer. But that’s not surprising because tourists also incur costs for lodging and multiple meals that local shoppers don’t experience.

The analysis included a survey of 327 people and looked at spending and downtown perceptions.

Among the specific findings is a need for more staple and regional goods, later shopping hours, more diversity of cuisine and additional grocery options. Respondents also said there’s a need for better access to parking. Parking problems are also not surprising, it has been a persistent issue and must be addressed no matter who the customers are.

David Reid, the former chairman of the downtown association’s business development committee, says a clear result is the need for retailers to focus on locals as the core demographic.

While tourism provides additional dollars, the local numbers show Reid’s right. Reid says the association will use the report to help downtown businesses while also using it to recruit where gaps exist.

For the business community, that’s news to use. With changing consumer habits brought on by internet behemoths like Amazon, retailers must be more nimble and willing to try new ideas, seizing opportunities where they exist. Downtown contains stores in most retail categories, but it lacks category clusters. That’s also an opportunity and makes recruiting a priority.

The demographics of Astoria, Clatsop County and the Long Beach Peninsula are more interesting to retailers today than they were a decade ago, and with the closure of the downtown J.C. Penney and other vacant storefronts, space and location shouldn’t be an obstacle.

Residents should do their part, too, to keep dollars in the community where the money can do the most good. Shop local.


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