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Safety precautions are a sound business practice: local survey

Survey indicates customers becoming more comfortable visiting local businesses; Survey proves customers 'care about their community and are concerned'
2020-03-04 Orillia chamber awards Nathan Beers
Chamber president Nathan Brown says the chamber conducted a survey to help its members "be successful" amid the pandemic. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

A recent survey is showing people are becoming more comfortable visiting local businesses and are pleased with the safety precautions that are in place.

The Orillia District Chamber of Commerce teamed up with OrilliaMatters for the consumer confidence survey, which was available from June 19 to July 7. A sampling was conducted June 22, followed by a comparative analysis of the final results.

The first question asked respondents if they were “ready to return to local merchants.” 

On June 22, 31 per cent indicated they felt comfortable returning to local businesses. In the end, that figure was 58 per cent.

Respondents were also asked if they would enter a business if both staff and customers were wearing masks and practising social distancing. The sampling found 81 per cent were willing, and that rose to 90 per cent when the survey closed.

Only two per cent of respondents said they would not wear a mask inside a store.

Chamber president Nathan Brown said he was not surprised by the responses to those and other questions in the survey.

The response to the question about wearing a mask when entering a business shows customers “actually care about their community and are concerned,” he said.

“They understand that we all share a responsibility.”

The fact 90 per cent said they would enter a business if staff were wearing masks and social distancing should be a wake-up call to places that are not already doing that, Brown added.

“Any business that chooses not to operate that way doesn’t realize the benefits of adapting to this,” he said. “I hope any business that hasn’t adapted to protect their staff and their customers makes a change, whether they’re chamber members or not.”

The experience during the COVID-19 pandemic could create longer-term opportunities, Brown said, adding he hopes businesses “take some positive learning out of this and maintain some of these protocols after this is over.”

He said the chamber will share the survey results with its members “to make sure they’re operating in a way that will allow them to be successful.”

Survey results (Source: Orillia District Chamber of Commerce)

1: Do you feel safe and ready to return to local merchants?

Fifty-eight per cent of consumers now feel confident to return to shopping at local merchants. On June 22, only 31 per cent of participants felt safe and ready to return to merchants. With the push for merchants to provide safe COVID business plans, along with curbside delivery methods, consumer confidence is rising. Forty-two per cent of the public is not ready to return.

2. Has the push for shop local campaigns impacted your out of country online shopping habits?

Fifty-one per cent of consumers felt that “Shop Local” campaigns had been effective in shopping local. On June 22, 54 per cent of consumers had felt it was effective. This would suggest that consumers are moving back toward shopping online, out of market for their purchases once again. While consumers may feel they save money supporting foreign businesses, shopping locally has much more impact on your bottom line. Online giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and others do not pay municipal, provincial and federal taxes, the costs of which will transfer to all taxpayers. Local businesses have physical location costs. They often donate to local charities, sports and recreational clubs, and most importantly, hire local people. They support your community. If everyone abandoned local business for online/out of country purchases, we would have a far greater economic crisis to deal with.

3. I will enter an establishment if they have clearly outlined their COVID-19 customer and staff procedures

Final poll numbers show that 90 per cent of consumers want to know a business has a safe system in place before they enter a building. Enclosed spaces are a concern for consumers and with 42 per cent of consumers not ready to return, they are looking for this information. Posting this on your website or social media channels will make the difference. On June 22, this number was 81 per cent. The increase would imply that posting your public safety plan is becoming more important to the average consumer.

4. I will enter an establishment if the staff are wearing masks or behind plexiglass and practising social distancing

Final poll numbers show that 90 per cent of consumers want to know that they are safe from others. With 42 per cent of current consumers not ready to return and 90 per cent wanting a safe system posted outside the building, it is in your best interest to ensure staff are protected and are following social distancing. As of June 22, 81 per cent of the respondents were looking for these procedures in place.

5. I will enter if both staff and customers are wearing masks and practising social distancing

Ninety-five per cent of the consumers polled would enter a store if both staff and customers are wearing masks or practising social distancing. On June 22, this number was 92 per cent and the poll would suggest it has been important in consumer confidence all along.

6. I refuse to enter a store wearing a mask

Only two per cent of the public refuses to wear a mask to enter a store. Ninety-eight per cent realize that wearing a mask in a public space is a good practice to keep our community safe. The poll data on June 22 was at 96 per cent, which suggests that most consumers have seen this as one thing we can all agree on. Business owners may want to develop an accessibility policy and provide those few customers that cannot wear a mask with other options such as end-of-day service, delivery and curbside pickup.

7. I would rather a delivery or curbside pickup option until a vaccine has been developed

Forty-seven per cent of the public wants a curbside or delivery option to make them feel safe. Consumers are picking and choosing where and when it feels safe to shop. On June 22, this number was much higher at 69 per cent wanting curbside pickup or delivery. With the reduction in COVID-19 cases locally, consumers may feel that it is safe to shop and most businesses are returning to old business models. Should a second wave occur, the data would suggest that a curbside pickup or delivery system would be crucial.

8. What local businesses have the best communication, procedure and best practices in place?

The top five businesses mentioned were Home Hardware, Costco, Studabakers Beachside, Studio Eleven, and Avaia Salon Spa.


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