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Turning feedback into greenbacks

November 17, 2011

The Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and the Owens Valley Contractors and Vendors Association will be offering a series of workshops the first of next year, in part to explain how the retail gap analysis and “leakage” report can be helpful in possibly boosting sales and revenue. Photo courtesy Metrocreativeconnections.com

Information gleaned from a retail analysis of Bishop businesses done earlier this year is still pertinent and valuable to local commerce, said members of both the Bishop Chamber of Commerce and the Owens Valley Contractors and Vendors Association.
The chamber and OVCVA will be holding a series of workshops in January and February 2012 to discuss the report completed by The Retail Coach and other ways to boost business in town. Questionnaires are being sent out in anticipation of the workshops, asking business owners and retailers what information they want to hear.
“Tell us what you need” and want to hear at these workshops, said Chamber Executive Director Tawni Thomson, noting that the chamber and OVCVA will try and meet the requests.
Dan Stone of the OVCVA said both entities are trying to build as much interest as possible in the workshops and what positive and constructive ideas can be had from the retail analysis. He explained that the goal of the workshops, and that of the OVCVA, is to boost sales and business locally – whether that is accomplished through education, sharing experiences or hands-on seminars.
Stone explained the questionnaires will be sent out soon so guest speakers can be chosen based on the topics decided through the surveys, and dates and times can be scheduled.
The Retail Coach completed a gap analysis, or study on the amount of money that is spent out of the area, at the end of January. This “leakage” amounted to $149 million in sales spent out of the area. The Retail Coach also compiled the results of nearly 500 surveys pertaining to local customers’ spending habits, likes and dislikes. The Retail Coach then invited the public to workshops to explain the results.
“Several area retailers did attend The Retail Coach presentations and I’m hoping that they were able to find some nuggets of ‘opportunity’ within the reports,” Thomson said. “Brad Balint, manager of Kmart, has he said he would be interested in looking at it for possibly expanding or altering current product offerings in the store.”
Thomson explained these reports are valuable for retailers. For one, the amount of leakage means that there is a potential for $149 million in sales that could be generated locally. She said she understands that the area is land-locked and property development is at a minimum, but there is plenty of space available downtown for large or small businesses or other commercial operations.
The Retail Coach’s findings of what local consumers want could also be a helpful tool, Thomson said. Some of this information – such as customers seeking a greeting when entering a store, a “thank you” after a purchase, a simple smile from the check-out clerk or for a business, a locally-owned business, to stay open past five o’clock – was called “low hanging fruit” by one local business advocate at a meeting in March. Thomson called this “constructive consumer criticism.”
The Retail Coach report has also been referred to and used as a tool to educate persons and businesses wishing to relocate or start up in town.
“The Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce has been contacted multiple times in recent months by potential investors that have inquired about relocating or opening new businesses here,” Thomson said in an e-mail. “I have provided copies of the leakage analysis study to at least four different parties and all have said that the information would be very useful in the decision making process.”
Thomson explained the Chamber has not done any proactive “recruiting” with the study, which is the usual follow-up to a retail analysis. She said she is hoping people with a real interest in the community and drive to live in such a beautiful yet isolated area will step forward and seek information on their own, instead of the Chamber mailing out marketing information to potential and, according to the report, needed businesses in town.
Thomson explained the Chamber is not necessarily in the business of undermining current local enterprises. For example, she said the Chamber would not actively try to recruit a giant footprint lumber company like Home Depot, that could potentially drive Manor True Value and High Country Lumber out of business.
She said she had heard from some businesses that they do not want to be told how to run their shops and stores based on some report. Thomson’s reply is that businesses and retailers have nothing to lose other than time by attending the upcoming seminars. There may be just one idea or comment that sticks with a retailer that could make a world of difference in sales.
And sales, Thomson said, are a lifeblood of the city’s economy, along with bed taxes, or transient occupancy tax. It is has been said repeatedly by economic experts that money spent locally stays in the local economy, where it is spent at other local businesses which may lead to job creation or competition that could lower prices and the continuation if not upgrade of services offered to the citizens through the city, such as street repair, park maintenance or the first-time home buyers assistance program.
A copy of the retail gap analysis is available through the City of Bishop website at www.bishop-ca.us. Details on the upcoming seminars will be published when made available.

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