GRAND HAVEN — Spurred in part by the opening of a new regional mall just up the road, the Association of Commerce and Industry plans to survey retailers to gauge local business conditions and gain additional insight into business conditions and how best to market the area.
ACI Executive Director Joy Gaasch hopes to have the mail survey of about 200 member retailers in Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg conducted in October, with results back by the end of the year.
The ACI will use the data resulting from survey responses to refine marketing and promotional strategies designed to lure customers and recruit new retail businesses to town.
“We need to do more so that our members really understand what’s going on with our local economy and our local members,” Gaasch said.
The effort comes on the heels of the opening of the new Lakes Mall in Muskegon, less than 10 miles away from downtown Grand Haven. Gaasch has heard varying comments from retailers, ranging from the Lakes Mall having little or no effect on their business, to a noticeable impact.
Even though business leaders locally don’t view the Lakes Mall as the retail community’s primary competition, particularly for downtown Grand Haven, its opening led Gaasch to conclude that now was a good time to gather information that local retail businesses can use to better compete and serve customers.
The 700,000-square-foot mall opened Aug. 15 and consists of three anchor stores — Sears, Younkers and JC Penney — and 71 retail spaces, about 80 percent of which are full.
“The mall basically raised the level of awareness that we need to continually focus on building a unique environment that continually draws customers,” Gaasch said. “In my mind, it said we need to examine where we are on a regular basis.”
The organization specifically will ask retailers how business went this summer, how well a strong tourist season translated into sales, and perspectives on how much, if any, the Lakes Mall is affecting local retailers.
The effort will build on the ACI’s past initiatives to survey members as a way to gather information and develop strategies to address specific issues, as well as on the organization’s goal to increase support for the retail community. Those efforts have included organizing and scheduling sales and customer service seminars for retailers.
“Surveys help you plan for the future and understand what’s going on in the community,” she said.