INITIAL SHOPPER SURVEY RESULTS UNVEILED

In order for Midsomer Norton’s Town Team to ensure the High Street meets the needs of local residents, the Somer Valley Chamber ran a shopping survey in June 2017. There was an excellent response to the survey, a total of 539 shoppers had their say, of which 82% lived in the BA3 postcode area.

Initial results have been collated and present interesting insights into the shopping patterns of local people and will help local businesses, led by the Chamber, B&NES and Midsomer Norton Town Council to focus on the issues raised.

“On behalf of the town and the Chamber of Commerce I’d like to thank all those who took part in the survey, The Midsomer Norton & Radstock Journal, Town Mayor Paul Myers and Cognisant Research for providing the Market Research know-how, free of charge, to make it possible, ”, said Tina Veater, Chair of the Somer Valley Chamber of Commerce. 

SO WHERE AND HOW OFTEN ARE LOCAL PEOPLE SHOPPING?

Respondents to the shoppers survey were typically “frequent” visitors to Midsomer Norton High Street (the High Street), with 76% visiting more than once a month and over half (56%) visiting weekly. Unsurprisingly, Midsomer Norton Tesco was the next most frequently visited shopping destination with over half of respondents (57%) visiting more than once a month. Online shopping was identified before any other location, with just under half (43%) shopping more than once a month and over a quarter (28%) shopping online every week. Bath and Radstock were the next most frequently visited areas at 21% and 18% respectively.

Figure 1 – Shopping More than Once a Month 

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Looking at those who visit the High Street once a month or less, the infrequent visitors, nearly two thirds (61%) are still frequent visitors to Midsomer Norton Tesco’s, an identical proportion to those shopping online. A fifth (20%) of these “infrequent” shoppers indicated that they go to Bath more than once a month. However, this is no different to the overall findings, suggesting that the propensity to visit the High Street doesn’t drive shopping visits to other locations, rather it drives shopping activity online.

The other key category is the top spenders, the top 25% of respondents categorised by their overall monthly spend. Whilst product spend is considered in the next section, it is interesting to note that the frequency of visits to MSN High Street by the top spenders remains constant at 75%. However, the top spenders are much more likely to buy online, with 63% purchasing this way, more than once a month, compared to the 43% identified overall. Indeed, nearly a third (30%) of top spenders frequently shop in Bath and the proportions visiting Frome, Wells and Shepton Mallet are all noticeably higher, as shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2 – Shopping Location Comparison

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WHAT ARE SHOPPER BUYING?

The average monthly budget identified by respondents was £708. Groceries made up nearly half (47%) of overall monthly spend at £281, with eating out (£60) and clothing (£58) also featuring highly. Looking at these three categories in particular, infrequent visitors consistently spend more than regular visitors. The study shows that infrequent visitors also spend more online, but not as much as the top spenders. In terms of shopping “destinations”, it’s clear that online out performs all rival destinations, such as Bath, Wells, Frome and Shepton Mallet.

Looking specifically at what people are spending their money on, groceries are understandably at the top of the list. It is also interesting to note the relationship between Tesco’s and the High Street, in terms of grocery shopping, as shoppers predisposition to shop at Tesco’s does not change, regardless of how frequently they visit the High Street.

Eating out and clothing, together, account for around a fifth of the overall monthly spend. For both the infrequent High Street visitors and the top spenders, Bath is a much more likely destination for these shoppers than Midsomer Norton. The key challenge for this piece of research is to identify how shoppers not currently using the High Street can be encouraged to spend more of their monthly budget in Midsomer Norton.

Figure3 – Monthly Spend Comparison

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Given that eating out and clothing were two categories identified as those with the most considerable monthly spend, after grocery shopping, we can see that infrequent visitors to the High Street are more likely to eat out and purchase clothes in Bath than Midsomer Norton.

WHAT DO SHOPPERS WANT FROM AN IDEAL HIGH STREET?

Considering what features shoppers are looking for in the ideal High Street, Variety of shops (4.46 out of 5), Good customer service (4.3) and Ample car parking (4.36) were the top three features identified in the survey. Although Midsomer Norton scores poorly in terms of variety of shops (2.27) and ample car parking (3.32), good customer service was identified as the town’s key strength (3.78).

Figure 4 – The Features of the Ideal High Street

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Given that shoppers identified variety of shops as their top priority for any High Street, Midsomer Norton clearly has to look at how it can provide the diversity of outlets, offering good quality restaurants, clothing, footwear and accessories, etc. that the spending data would suggest appeals to those not already regularly visiting.

Focusing on what shoppers say they want in the ideal High Street puts good customer service, car parking and price, along with the variety of shops, as the top priorities. Whilst Midsomer Norton High Street performs relatively well in terms of customer service, access to public toilets and the appearance of the High Street are areas where improvements clearly need to be made.

WHAT DOES THE SURVEY TELL US IN TERMS OF MOVING FORWARD?

Variety of shops – Midsomer Norton needs to:

  • Develop and promote a more coherent offering and promote it much harder– in order to become a destination shopping venue positioned below Bath and Bristol but competing with the neighbouring market towns of Wells and Shepton.
  • Strengthen the base of independent businesses –by encouraging them to bolster their sales with a much stronger online presence. Key to this however is better Broadband Access in the High Street as well as the possibility of free WiFi access for shoppers visiting the town centre.
  • Develop more larger modern purpose built retail units – in order to attract more larger retailers which the town currently lacks.

Access to public toilets – Improving actual toilet provision, accessibility and promoting what is available to shoppers represents the potential quickest win for the town.

High Street Appearance – Tackling the state of the physical public realm and High Street premises is key – with B&NES and Landlords working in partnership to have a concerted ‘sprucing up’ exercise.