Shoppers Are Being Surveyed

Published 4:41 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FARMVILLE – Shoppers can put their two-cents worth into the revitalization of downtown Farmville.

In fact, so can everyone in the Farmville area.

The information they provide will be considered priceless.

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Never will two-cents worth of someone's opinion be considered so valuable.

The Longwood University Small Business Development Center, with the help of LU student volunteers, is conducting a market analysis to provide vital data for the project.

More than a penny for your thoughts, too, because those who complete the survey will have a chance to win one of several $100 gift cards that will be given away as incentives.

Consumers and business owners are being surveyed, with customers receiving cards at stores inviting them to complete the online survey.

Additionally, LU students will be interviewing shoppers.

The market analysis that comes from the data will provide vital information about what consumers want from their Farmville shopping experience.

“It's crucial that we get the right mix of businesses downtown so that we build a vibrant and resilient economic base and a true community center, with students, tourists and people from Farmville enjoying each other's company,” Chuck Ross told the Herald Monday, reflecting on the importance of the marketing analysis.

“This survey,” stressed Ross, co-chair of the downtown revitalization committee Downtown Farmville, “is another crucial step in helping us gain a clear understanding of what that mix of businesses should look like. Once we understand that, we will need to work with the Town and property owners to make downtown an even more attractive option for entrepreneurs looking to open a business.”

Sheri McGuire, Executive Director of the LU SBDC Network, is excited about the opportunity to help the downtown revitalization project.

“We've been involved with the downtown revitalization group and one of areas they need assistance with is determining the different business needs downtown,” Ms. McGuire said during a telephone interview.

There are several different audiences for this market analysis project-primarily shoppers, but also residents, students and LU faculty.

Ms. McGuire explained in information provided to the Herald that a market analysis is “the process of documenting details about the area's current economic condition, exploring changes occurring in the marketplace, verifying what consumers want from specific shopping areas, and discovering what businesses the various areas will support.”

The business community, along with local economic developers, will learn who is coming to Farmville to shop, from where and why-revealing the “trade area” from which town businesses draw customers and useful demographic information.

Existing and new business owners, as well as those thinking about opening a business, will also have access to the data and its analysis conclusions.

The analysis will reach for data beyond the downtown area in a way that will help downtown merchants but the entire business community, too.

“We will also have, in following weekends this winter,” Ms. McGuire said during the interview, “students in other shopping areas, as well, capturing the (consumer) traffic not necessarily come downtown and find out what they came to Farmville for and what will make them visit downtown.”

Downtown Farmville co-chair Jimmy Johnson believes it is vital to get as much feedback as possible.

“Speaking as a downtown merchant and property owner, I am excited that we, the downtown merchants, have been given the opportunity to engage our customers, not only those who are local but those from other areas of the state and country who come to Farmville to shop, by handing each of them a card encouraging them to take the survey and give us their ideas and feelings about our downtown,” Johnson told the Herald.

The value of the market analysis of today's shoppers, he explained, “is critical to engaging our merchants and property owners in understanding what our current customer demographics are and how best to market the downtown area in the future.”

Ms. McGuire stresses that “this data will be available free to anyone who wants it. It will give a better idea of the demands for products and services and the best location for what businesses…

“I'm hoping our economic developers will make use of the data,” she said, “and existing businesses too. We look forward to working with everybody.”

Johnson pointed out that “as we learn who shops downtown and why, or why not, we can then better understand how to go about creating a better and more enjoyable shopping experience as we work towards making improvements and additions that will only enhance what we already have.”

There is “no specific deadline for this to finish,” Ms. McGuire said of the project, describing it as “longer term.

“We're hoping that we can use students and resources to go back and update the information and watch what is happening with growth in the town from year to year,” Ms. McGuire said.

The online survey, she added, will only take about 10 minutes to complete. “And we are offering as incentives a drawing for those who give us their email address,” she said regarding the $100 shopping cards.

Some of those shopping cards are being sponsored, Ms. McGuire noted, by the Town of Farmville and Prince Edward County, thanking Town Manager Gerald Spates and County Administrator Wade Bartlett.

There is even something in the survey for the participating students.

“This is real life,” said Ms. McGuire, who will be teaching an entrepreneur class at LU in the spring. “It's fun and something students can relate to…not just a pie-in-the-sky idea.”

And, she adds, “this is exciting for me.”

The Town of Farmville as a classroom for her students to help the local business community make the grade.

“One of our goals,” Johnson noted, “is to make downtown Farmville a destination shopping Mecca and this survey should give us some great data to utilize in formulating our plans and to make that happen. A greater diversity of stores, restaurants and service businesses, along with increased community activities and interaction in our downtown area, will work to enhance the great potential that we have before us.”

There will be survey input. Faculty, staff and students at LU are getting an email invitation to complete the survey and residents are also invited to participate. Again, Downtown Farmville wants everyone involved in providing survey data. To do so, go to this web site: and complete the questionnaire.

If you don't have internet access, call the SBDC at 395-2086 and they will mail you a paper copy of the survey.

“Only by having the community involved and making citizens aware of the opportunity to give their input about what they feel will make Downtown Farmville better will the survey be a success,” Johnson told the Herald.

The study is sponsored by the Longwood University, Downtown Farmville, the Town of Farmville and Prince Edward County.

Get your two cents ready.