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Atmosphere, options and safety at the top of consumers’ list


Fast Facts:

Survey conducted by Division of Agriculture initiative looks at consumer priorities
Data collected from 199 southwestern Arkansas residents
Survey results at uaex.uada.edu/createbridgesresources

LITTLE ROCK — A friendly atmosphere, options, and safety measures were southwestern Arkansans’ top three values in choosing which restaurants and stores to frequent, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
The survey was conducted in March by CREATE BRIDGES, an initiative of the Division of Agriculture’s Community and Economic Development Department, based in Little Rock. CREATE BRIDGES is an acronym for “Celebrating Retail, Accommodations, Tourism and Entertainment by Building Rural Innovations and Developing Growth Economies.”
The survey received responses from 199 residents living in Howard, Little River, and Sevier counties.
Julianne Dunn, economic educator for the Division of Agriculture, said the most popular products purchased were clothing and locally made or crafted goods, according to the survey results.
“Additionally, a majority of respondents want the conveniences added during the pandemic to remain, such as ordering online, picking up at the store and curbside delivery,” Dunn said.
CREATE BRIDGES is designed to bring two three-county regions together to collaborate, gather data, develop and implement strategies to assist small, rural businesses in retaining and expanding their customer base.
The CREATE BRIDGES 3C’s Region, consisting of Howard, Little River, and Sevier counties, was selected in the fall of 2018. Like other programs and agencies, however, CREATE BRIDGES administrators had to reassess their objectives in 2020 while facing the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We agreed that consumers’ needs and desires may have changed as a result of the pandemic and that it would be beneficial to small retail businesses to know what their customers sought,” Vickie Williamson, economic development director for Little River County, said.
Williamson and Tiffany Maurer, economic development director for Sevier County, generated a short list of questions in January for consumers to answer online.
All respondents were entered into a drawing for a gift card as an incentive to participate. There were 199 responses across the three counties, providing helpful data and comments for local businesses. The complete survey results are available at www.uaex.uada.edu/createbridgesresources.