The LA Metro Chamber conducted a survey of its members and residents of Androscoggin County in the two weeks preceding the June 1st reopening date, and it is clear that COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior. While being cleared to reopen is a key step in economic recovery, many are wondering if being open will offer enough income to be sustainable. 

 

THE RESULTS: Shopping

While 16% of respondents said they would go to a nearby county to begin shopping before June 1st, 68% of respondents will have changed their shopping habits. Of those, 23% will continue to look for curbside pick up, and another 23% will be headed into the store to quickly grab their necessities, foregoing any wandering around the store. Most remarkably, 22% of respondents don’t plan on shopping yet and don’t know when they will be ready to. 

 

THE RESULTS: Events

After nearly 3 months of sheltering in place and limited activity, the survey’s comments made it clear folks are feeling stir crazy. Their responses also reflected that while people are ready to socialize, they won’t be doing it the way they did before COVID-19. While 28% of respondents can’t wait to gather, they prefer to do so in a controlled environment- their own home or office. More than a third (34%) of respondents said plainly they aren’t ready to go to events yet, while 13% said they would go only if required by their employer. 

 

THE RESULTS: Chamber Activities

The LA Metro Chamber is committed to include our at-risk and hesitant members while returning to the in-person activities you love. What we learned is that respondents are almost equally divided in how they want to participate, with virtual attendance slightly preferred. For each of our signature activities, virtual attendance lead in-person by a narrow margin: 

  • Business After Hours (51%)
  • Breakfast (55%)
  • Business Networking events (56%).

The majority of respondents will keep learning remotely, with 68% saying they will attend seminars virtually.

All of our events will offer a remote-attendance option, and we are innovating new ways to meaningfully engage those joining from their home or office. Be looking for ways to engage with other remote attendees, win door prizes, and get goodies from our sponsors in the comfort of your home. For those who join in person, registrations will be limited, distancing will be supported by room design, and all sanitary precautions will be taken to ensure a safe event.

 

THE KEY TAKEAWAYS

When the LA Metro Team dug into the comments in the survey, there were key takeaways that reflect how divisive the issue of reopening has become. Three months ago all of Maine came to a halt as people put public health above all else. In the following weeks the precautions being taken to slow the spread started to reveal their economic impact, while the impact to health was being counted in daily case and death counts by the CDC. The tensions that made front-page news continued to flare, but our survey (which mirrors state and national survey results) shows that the loudest opinions aren’t necessarily the most widespread opinions. When asked “what do you hope businesses and event hosts consider as we reopen?”, only 13% of responses wanted an unmitigated reopening. More than 70% of comments made clear that they would be looking for safety precautions, and more than half of these comments referenced distancing of 6ft+ and masks. 

 

What you should keep in mind: 

  • Communicate expectations– so people know what to expect before they arrive at your business. Be explicit about use and repercussions for face coverings, distancing, and safety protocols. 
  • Offer options– most people aren’t ready to return to “normal”, so keep offering virtual options, online ordering, curbside pickup, and ways for people with health conditions to patronize your business. 
  • Go outside– the more you can offer in an outdoor setting, the more inviting you are for folks who are on the fence about dining, shopping, and events. 
  • Model what you want– show patrons what to expect from your business by sharing photos and updates on social media, and ensuring you and your other patrons are acting the way your policies and practices intend.