Market study to poll residents, businesses on shopping habits

Mary Bosch is trying to find out what Sweet Home residents want to buy and how businesses can convince them to buy it in Sweet Home; and she wants help from the public.

Bosch, a consultant with Marketek, a firm specializing in market analysis and economic development for downtown revitalization projects, spent Wednesday meeting with local economic development organizations and visiting local businesses, kicking off a retail marketing study.

The study is meant to help the community answer the question: What kind of businesses can the community support and how can the community attract them?

The answer requires many small pieces of information and discussion, Bosch said. To that end, surveys for customers and business owners are posted on-line at Bosch is encouraging local residents and business owners to fill out the surveys, which can be completed quickly on-line.

Bosch will look at basic demographics in the market, which includes the area around Sweet Home, she said. Part of the work will study statistically how many people the business community is drawing from the local area and how much they spend.

It will describe what’s in the market now and what niches could sell but are not represented.

The study will provide good data for existing businesses and a good picture of the community.

“We ask shoppers how they want to see the community present itself,” Bosch said. She also wants to find out about those secret attractions that might bring people to town.

While making her rounds among businesses, she stopped at Oregon Prospecting and Rita’s Relics where she learned about gold mining in the area, something of which she had been unaware €“ and something she said she hasn’t seen elsewhere in other Oregon cities.

Sweet Home has attractions no one ever talks about, she said. Even though people in the region are well aware of Foster Lake, she thinks it could be more well-known, drawing interest from even farther away.

Her goal is to figure out how to market these secrets better.

Sweet Home has people who work here but live elsewhere, and it also has a number of people who visit, Bosch said. The visitor market, especially with Foster Lake, is big.

She will look for their input as well.

While visiting merchants last week, she said, she was trying to find out who is doing what, community and business strengths, what challenges they face and what businesses might market themselves together to increase sales.

Bosch also was looking at the changes in Sweet Home since the last time she she worked here, six and 10 years ago.

“The physical improvements are huge,” she said. She noted new businesses and property owners on Main Street and new developments, such as the Edgewater RV Park.

“It adds up to a lot more than meets the eye,” Bosch said. The community also has a good city government, with a positive attitude toward improvement, and “a cooperative group of people working together.”

By early January, she thinks she will be ready to present findings to the public, Bosch said. In the meantime, she will form focus groups as part of the study.

The city also may hold town hall meetings, and her study can piggyback on those, she said.

The more people providing input the better, she said.

The study is funded by a $7,500 rural business grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The city is providing $6,000 in match funds.