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It has been at least 10 years since the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation (LACDC) last conducted a survey about what Los Alamos residents want in retail and dining options.
So Dave Fox, owner of CB Fox Department Store, suggested it was time for an update.
“The amount of chatter about the state of the local stores, even without regard to Smith’s coming, had reached enough of a pitch that I said, ‘why don’t we do a survey and find out what people want that some of the remaining stores can sell?’, which is a natural thing to think if you’re a retailer and living with that all the time, as we are,” Fox said. “So we suggested that it might be timely to do a survey and find out what’s wanted that can’t be had.”
The LACDC ran with the idea, conducting an extensive online survey during the month of April.
“LACDC decided to take on the mission and just really find out what Los Alamos wants in terms of dining and shopping options, and comparing that to what we have here and what they would like to see,” said Katie Stavert, business advisor for Los Alamos Business Assistance Services.
Word of the survey was circulated through press releases and social media, as well as with business cards and signs in restaurants and retail locations. LACDC received 381 responses, approximately two percent of the population.
The survey was extensive, asking respondents to rate a variety of retail and restaurant options as well as to provide details about their dining and shopping habits.
“Our goal with the survey is to help existing businesses in town. The main thing is to see what people really want and need in this town and their general shopping habits. Are they shopping in Los Alamos or Santa Fe or Albuquerque? How often are they eating out?” Stavert said. “This way a local business owner can tailor their business to better meet the needs of the local community or start up a new business that could meet the needs of the community.”
It did not surprise those who conducted the survey that Santa Fe is the favorite community to shop in, with Los Alamos/White Rock coming in second.
Respondents were asked to rate their interest in having various dining options available: casual/family dining, café, fine dining, and fast food, pub/bar, snack bar, carry out, chain and independent.
“We got the highest result for snack bar, fast food and fine dining,” Stavert said.
Respondents were also asked to write in what restaurants they would like to see here. Italian food and Olive Garden rated high, as well as more exotic fare such as Thai food. Applebee’s, Panda Express, Panera Bread, Red Lobster, a steakhouse, Sweet Tomatoes, Taco Bell and a sports bar were also popular requests.
Needless to say, there were requests for restaurants to stay open later.
The most popular restaurants in town (in no particular order) were the Bandelier Grill, the Blue Window, the Brew Pub, and Dixie Girl, Hot Rocks Java Café and Chili Works.
Those off the Hill included the India House, Outback Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill, Red Lobster, Red Robin, Taco Bell, Sweet Tomatoes and Souper Salad.
Retail questions included which community people like to shop in and when they shop.
Respondents were given a list of 29 retail products ranging from medical and dental services to groceries, sporting goods, housewares and appliances and asked what percentage of those they purchased in Los Alamos, in other locations or on the Internet.
Dental, medical, pharmacy, insurance, beauty and hair care services, fitness and grocery were the top purchases within the county. Electronics, computers, cameras, books, music, shoes, toys and games were some of the top items purchased elsewhere or via the Internet.
The survey also asked when residents tended to shop to help businesses tailor their hours.
“About 36 percent of respondents prefer to shop on a weekday morning. Weekday afternoons and neutral were both 37 percent. Weekday evenings were up to 44 percent. We have 57 percent who prefer to shop on Saturday but, interestingly enough, Sunday dropped down to 41 percent.” Stavert said. “So there’s definitely a big peak for weekday evenings and Saturday.”
Comments also showed a preference for stores opening later and staying open after people get off work.
Stavert believes the survey is a fairly accurate reflection of what people want. Two percent of the target population is statistically significant, and the “bell curve” of who responded reflects the demographics of the population.
Most of the respondents were female, “which is not surprising considering females make most of the purchasing decisions for families,” Stavert said.
The majority of respondents were 40–49 years old, with those 30–39 next and 50–59–year-olds coming in third.
The mean age in Los Alamos is mid-40s.
Many respondents have lived in Los Alamos more than 10 years and others have been here one to five years.
Although the majority of the respondents were from Los Alamos and White Rock, those from Española and Santa Fe who work in the county also responded.
“And we were interested in their comments, too,” Stavert said. “What are they looking for? Would they stop and shop here more if we had other things, or eat dinner out more?
Stavert noted that the survey was too extensive to compile results into one booklet, but that anyone is welcome to come to Business Assistance Services (109 Central Park Square) for specific data useful to their business.
“We have a lot of responses, people filled out a lot of the open, blank comment forms, so they can look at all of those and we can cross-tabulate anything and really get into specifics for their area,” Stavert said.
The results will also be discussed at a Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce business breakfast on Thursday.
“What we’re hoping to have on Thursday is really a discussion on all of these different results and how we can better assist the community in what they really want.” Stavert said. “We’re looking for a very dynamic discussion about all of these results and the take from the retailers and restaurateurs and business people that currently are in operation in Los Alamos.”
The breakfast is from 7:30–9 a.m. Aug. 1 at UNM-Los Alamos, Building 5, room 505, Wallace Hall.
Stavert can be reached at 661-4805 or firstname.lastname@example.org.