This past winter, Visit Buffalo Niagara and the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation engaged Longwoods International, a world leader in tourism marketing research, to conduct a study on Buffalo Niagara as a shopping destination for Canadians.
According to a news release issued Monday:
Longwoods International Senior Vice President and Director of Research Michael Erdman presented the results of the research today, during a pair of events at the WNED Studios in Buffalo and the Niagara Falls Conference and Events Center in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The research was designed to capture the following strategic information on the Ontario market:
• Drivers of shopping destination selection
• Buffalo Niagara’s image as a shopping destination vs. competition
• Behavioral and demographic data
• Surveys were conducted from Feb. 7 to 27, 2012
• Longwoods surveyed 655 travelers from Ontario, ages 18 and older, who claimed to have traveled for shopping in the last 3 years
• Buffalo Niagara was compared to the following Canadian destinations: Montreal, Metro Toronto and Hamilton
Demographics of Canadian shoppers in Buffalo Niagara:
• Skews slightly female
• Younger – 50 percent are 25 to 44 years old
• Employed full-time, with kids at home
• Well educated – 85 percent have received some post-secondary education
• Significant Asian market, which is in line with the Greater Toronto Area’s population
• Above average income
Behavioral characteristics and impressions:
• Strongest season for day trips and overnight trips is July to September
• Short planning cycles – 44 percent of day trips to Buffalo Niagara are planned in one week or less
• Top information sources for travel planning are the internet and the shoppers’ own personal experience from past visits
• The average overnight trip to Buffalo Niagara is for 2.3 nights for 3.1 people
• The most commonly visited shopping areas were the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, the Walden Galleria and the Boulevard Mall
• 53 percent of day trip visitors and 34 percent of overnight visitors engaged in no other activities in Buffalo Niagara other than shopping
• Relative to competitors, Buffalo Niagara has an image deficit outside of shopping. Many visitors are missing out on the region’s dining, local culture and entertainment/nightlife.
Report Conclusions and Recommendations:
• Ontario shoppers are not downscale bargain-hunters. They are urban, young and upscale.
• Buffalo Niagara is clearly positioned as a shopping mecca
• In absence of destination marketing initiatives, shopping trips will be driven by affordability of goods
• Buffalo Niagara’s Unique Selling Proposition is that we are a “fun place to shop.” This is an important differentiator that our region delivers very well on.
• There is a huge untapped opportunity in the high proportion of visitors who do nothing besides shopping.
• Encourage Canadians to expand their experience in Buffalo Niagara through promotion, aligning the region’s product with their interests and way-finding.
• Buffalo Niagara should have a frequent and consistent advertising presence in key markets to :
o Cater to an audience with a short planning cycle
o Keep the region “top of mind”
o Increase the frequency of visits and the length of stay
“We’ve always known that Canadian shoppers play a tremendously important role in Buffalo Niagara’s economy,” said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara. “This study gives us a thorough understanding of their demographics, behaviors and motivators; illuminates Buffalo Niagara’s strengths and opportunities; and provides a clear roadmap for a targeted marketing and public relations plan across the border, which will improve our image and increase visitation and spending.”
“It’s no surprise that the Southern Ontario shopper is a vital character in our marketing landscape,” said John Percy, president and CEO of NTCC. “This survey allows us to have a deeper knowledge of the Canadian shopper’s interests, which will be important as we undertake more projects and see more development in Niagara USA, making the link to the tourism and hospitality industry even stronger.”