Three focus groups conducted in August, 2000 have produced some surprising information that may be of interest to anyone who owns a business in , or who may be thinking of opening a business in Sudbury. Has any business tapped the spending power of the over 9000 employees who work in Sudbury each day? Read on to find out some interesting facts and perceptions about Sudbury’s businesses and users.
Business Owner Focus Group — August 28, 2000
Present: Robert Scagnetti, Clappers; Steven Michaels, Optical Place; David VanBuskirk, Bear-ly Read Books; Tom Slayton, Blue Lion restaurant; Susan Maranhao, Wild Birds Unlimited; Ron Remillard, American Speedy Printers; Andria Grant, Quilted or Not; Marty Landrigan, moderator; Michael Vivaldi, Planning Intern; Jody Kablack, Town Planner
Length of time operating a business in Sudbury? Ranged from 9 months to 26 years. 4 out of 7 have been in Sudbury for 10 years or more. 2 have been here less than 1 year.
Only 1 business owner is also a Sudbury resident (Andria Grant).
3 out of 7 own the property, the others lease the property. The owned properties were all stand alone structures, while the leased properties were within multiple business complexes (with at least 1 other tenant).
Demographics of customers: Optical Place-70% Sudbury residents; Wild Birds Unlimited-just <50% Sudbury residents; the others thought themselves regional destinations stops, with approximately 20% of their business coming from Sudbury residents. No one thought the absence of Sudbury residents was a negative factor in operating here.
Do they think their location is adequate? All thought they had good or excellent locations. Those on Route 20 liked it. Most needed more space, but weren’t pursuing it.
Had they done research on the market prior to locating in Sudbury? Most did personal observations (observed traffic patterns, drove around, read local papers) and used realtors; 1 purchased market research data on demographics (Wild Birds Unlimited).
Did they look for compatible stores before they located in their present location? Only Wild Birds Unlimited looked for other niche retailers. She also looked for a site with adequate parking.
Benefits of Operating a business in Sudbury? Affluence, well educated citizenry, geographical location, attitude of patrons (shop in small stores, not overly attracted to chain stores)
Drawbacks to operating in Sudbury? traffic volume on Route 20 (difficult to turn in and out of driveways), some customers have bad attitudes
Is there local competition for their business? Not much local competition; some mentioned the Internet (Quilted or Not, Clappers); most felt they provided specialty goods and services that are not commonly found
Do they advertise? All advertise locally and regionally; each had their own favorite method: American Speedy and Quilted or Not prefer direct mail, Clappers likes the West Weekly section of the Boston Globe; Bearly Read Books advertises on cable TV and radio (especially on the cape); Blue Lion and Wild Birds Unlimited liked the Val-U-Pak coupons delivered in the mail.
Are their business hours convenient to their customers? Each have tried to incorporate evening hours into the schedule, but rarely have enough business except during holiday months. All agreed that they would try to open one evening if more businesses did so. One expressed that it is a security issue for a single business to be open at night.
Future Ideas for downtown?
- Deliver a list of Sudbury businesses with the Town Report (work with Chamber to produce such a list)
- Banners along Route 20 have identified and unified the business district
- Getting a theatre or other entertainment venue would generate more evening business
- Getting more destination stores and uses would bring in more business
- Need to have an understandable process for permitting
- Would be good to have an advocate/ point person in town government for business related inquiries
- Freestanding signs should be allowed for locations that are not directly on Route 20
- Encourage a “Shop Sudbury” campaign
- Organize an annual festival to celebrate a famous resident or character
- Home businesses should be assessed for personal property taxes
- Route 20 should be re-0engineered, it is to primitive
Will sewering Route 20 help their business? Most were afraid that the construction disruption would hurt the small businesses. None of the participant thought it would help them directly (indirect implications were not discussed, such as if more restaurants were allowed, would this generate customers for retail stores?)
Do they like the idea of apartments over stores? Most thought that bringing people into the downtown was a good idea. Could benefit seniors as well (smaller residential units).
3 out of 7 knew about the Economic Development Committee
4 out of 7 are members of the Chamber of Commerce
Shoppers Focus Group — August 29, 2000
Present: Betty Steudel; Esther Mann; Catherine Rader; Carol Oram; Suzanne Romaine; Abner Salant, EDC; Jody Kablack, Town Planner
How often do they shop in Sudbury? All responded that they shop regularly in Sudbury for certain products as long as it is convenient. All shopped for groceries, although some also shop out of town for sale grocery items (Marlboro and Stow). Most shopped for liquor, hardware items and convenience items in Sudbury. One person said they shop predominantly for price, and would shop elsewhere to save $5. Few shop for big ticket items in Sudbury. Most try to shop locally, but many items are not available. Most liked TJ Maxx for clothes.
If the product was available locally, why won’t they buy it in Sudbury? Some stores provide bad service, prices are usually higher, and sometimes it is easier to combine their shopping errands in Framingham (more products available in one given area).
Favorite stores: Town Line Hardware, True Value Hardware, Brines Sporting Goods
Stores they would like to see in Sudbury? More drugstores, 5 and 10, bookstore, shoe stores, movies, theatre, home goods store (but not high end)
Do they favor shopping in large stores? 1/3
Do they favor shopping in small specialty stores? 1/3
Are there problems with the physical layout of the Sudbury business district? Too much dispersion of stores, no concentration; traffic movement difficult; no public transportation to regional locations (train stations, malls, recreational facilities, Marlboro movies)
What do they think of constructing apartments over stores in Sudbury? All were ok with this idea
Would they like to see expanded store hours? One extra hour on each end of the day would be helpful; 10 am opening is inconvenient; universal nightly hours (get stores to stay open on the same night)
What advertising do they pay attention to? No one seemed too persuaded by advertisement. For new residents, the welcome wagon provided a good source of advertisement. Some looked at ValuPak coupons and ads in local paper.
Future Ideas for Sudbury’s downtown?
- Get more cultural events and places to locate here — make business district more multi-functional.
- Improve traffic movement along Route 20.
- Build bicycle paths and walkways.
- Encourage more variety of stores.
- Not too receptive to 3 story buildings, but apartments over stores would be acceptable.
Employee Focus Group – August 29, 2000
PRESENT: Jim Basford, Metrowest Bank; Joe Ricciardi, Chiswick Trading Co; Vicky Peck; Chris Murphy, IDP; Ted Pasquarello, Paris Trust; Abner Salant, EDC; Michael Vivaldi, Planning Inters; Jody Kablack, Town Planner
Participants commute between 6-25 miles to work in Sudbury. They have worked in town between 2.5-15 years.
When do you typically shop in Sudbury? All participants do some of their shopping in Sudbury, either during work (lunch breaks) or after work. Some shop in Sudbury even during non-work hours. Most participants preferred to shop in Sudbury over other areas or their own hometown.
Why do you shop in Sudbury? Small, well-serviced stores; there is feeling that they belong to the community and therefore patronize the stores; good variety of specialty items; friendly staff; it helps form network connections(if they patronize Sudbury businesses, more business will come to them).
Where do you shop? TJ Maxx Plaza for food and retail items; all over for errands and food; visit restaurants frequently (Sky, Blue Lion, Lotus Blossom)
How do they get around in the business area? Some walk, but only if they are going next door or across the street. Otherwise they drive. Many times visit more than 1 store at a time.
Why don’t they walk around Route 20? Not enough crosswalks or sidewalks. Benches and public parks would encourage more walking.
Are there stores missing that they would patronize if they existed in Sudbury? Book stores with a caf setting; shoe stores; health club with a day spa; hobby/craft store; office supply.
Do they prefer to shop in large stores or small stores? Most participants said they do a predominant amount of their shopping in small stores.
Future Ideas for Sudbury’s downtown:
- The mass of employees in Sudbury is an untapped resource. Nearly 9000 employees come to Sudbury every day, yet they are not typically identified as a group.
- Businesses should promote themselves to other Sudbury businesses and employees — possibly through Chamber of Commerce.
- Distribute local coupons to employees.
- Sudbury should try to accommodate start-up businesses.
- Tax rates and other incentives are needed to attract and retain businesses.