The results of a year-long purchasing survey in Thompson conducted by UCN and Thompson Unlimited are in and they are not favorable.
Mark Matiasek, general manager of Thompson Unlimited and an investigator on the survey, along with research assistant Tyler Craig, a University College of the North (UCN) student, presented the findings at a Thompson Chamber of Commerce breakfast in conjunction with Small Business Week on Oct. 18.
Three methods were employed for gathering data for the survey: face-to-face questionnaires, survey questionnaires at the Thompson Airport, and online surveys. In total, 412 surveys were completed among both local Thompson residents and Thompson region residents.
Local Thompson residents by a large majority were not satisfied with the level of customer service provided at Thompson stores, with 69 per cent of respondents stating they were dissatisfied. A measly nine per cent of respondents were satisfied with the customer service in Thompson, while 22 per cent were neither satisfied or dissatisfied.
Satisfaction levels were slightly higher among out of town respondents, with 27 per cent saying they were satisfied, the majority however were still dissatisfied with 40 per cent reporting so.
Another concern brought up in the study was the amount of retail leakage, in other words people doing their shopping outside of Thompson, due to retail businesses being unable to meet the purchasing needs of local residents.
In total, 90 per cent of Thompson residents who took part in the survey revealed that they made purchases outside of Northern Manitoba. The same way that outlying communities travel to Thompson to shop, Thompsonites travel elsewhere to make their purchases.
Even those who aren’t physically leaving Thompson are still making purchases outside of Thompson via online shopping. Over 120 non-aboriginal respondents reported making recent online purchases, while close to 50 aboriginal respondents reported making online purchases.
“With the implementation of high-speed Internet on reserves, you’re seeing more and more aboriginal people shopping online” said Craig.
Matiasek followed up by saying that the convenience of online shopping can be a detriment to local businesses.
“That’s money leaving our community and not being spent here,” said Matiasek, “it hinders local business as well as expansion.”
Recommendations pulled from the survey were to work to develop better customer service training for the retail and service sectors. Matiasek made a point that product placement needs to be looked at as well in regards to both price and quantity.
“A lot of people say that they can’t find what they’re looking for here in town,” said Matiasek.
Further research is being conducted with respect to the impacts of immigrant/temporary workers, and following online purchasing and its economic impact. Tyler Craig is preparing a research essay in follow-up to the survey.