DOWNTOWN — Despite a rocky economy this past year, 62 percent of Santa Monica residents claimed their shopping habits remained unchanged, according to a local spending survey conducted by city officials and business interests.
The survey, taken by 732 people, aimed to track the local spending habits of Santa Monica residents and employees as part of the Buy Local Santa Monica campaign, which encourages people to shop at Santa Monica businesses.
Jennifer Taylor, senior development analyst at City Hall’s Economic Development Department, said she believes despite the economy, Santa Monica residents have not changed their local spending because of the quality and uniqueness of businesses here and the premium placed on buying local.
“People geuninely value local businesses and want to support them,” Taylor said.
Purchasing practices during a recession aside, the goal of the survey was to breakdown spending habits in order to better understand where and why Santa Monica residents shop and what the Buy Local Committee can do to enhance local shopping and aid the 105 local businesses associated with Buy Local.
With the help of Santa Monica College students trained during a two-hour session and the Bayside Downtown Ambassadors, Buy Local Committee members distributed surveys at events like the Pico Art Walk and the Main Street Summer Soulstice.
“We try to go to different parts of the city where we knew we’d get a lot of people,” Taylor said. “The feedback is incredibly valuable to us.”
Of those surveyed, 67 percent are Santa Monica residents, the rest employees in Santa Monica or shoppers from nearby areas.
People who only work in Santa Monica are important because of their need for lunch and daytime shopping options.
Scott Rader, for example, works in Santa Monica, but lives elsewhere. While he primarily shops near his home, he goes to the Third Street Promenade when he needs something during the day. To reach people like Rader, the group purposely targeted Wednesday Farmers’ Markets instead of Saturdays.
Additional demographics taken into consideration are adjacent cities, like Venice, Brentwood and the Pacific Palisades. Taylor said although these people do not live directly in Santa Monica, they consider shopping here as local.
Results showed that residents believe shopping locally is important.
“I’m loyal to my community,” said Santa Monica resident Anne Pearson. She said she enjoys watching local businesses thrive.
From the survey results, the committee was able to determine how to make local shopping a better experience for people like Pearson, whether through informing them what new business would attract patrons or if they need to better publicize the businesses already here.
For example, one major reason for shopping elsewhere was variety, with many survey participants noting a lack of ethnic dining options and stores like Target. However, Taylor said there are plenty of ethnic restaurants, such as Dhaba Cuisine of Indian on Main Street, but people in parts of the city farther from these locations might not know about them. Thanks to the survey, committee members now know better marketing is needed for these restaurants.
Cost and parking were also listed as reasons residents travel elsewhere to shop, but also factors that would draw them back to Santa Monica if improved. Taylor said the problem of parking is one of perception than reality, though, and committee members are working to make more parking available during weekends and evenings.
Regardless of any complaints found in the survey, 75 percent of Santa Monica residents said buying local is important.
“It was good to have that validated,” Taylor said. “Local residents … understand and value local businesses.”
Debbie Lee with Bayside said the survey will help economic development in terms of looking at what types of businesses to attract and expanding services that might be missing. Additionally, it encourages people to explore Santa Monica more for shops that fit their needs that they might not have noticed previously.
“You might walk by the store 100 times” but not notice it, Lee said.