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How to perform neighbourhood research for your small business’ location

By Samantha Garner | July 21, 2012

Many small businesses, especially retailers, face the important decision of where to hang their hats. For companies that rely on window shoppers and attracting customers from street level, choosing the most appropriate location is especially important.

How to evaluate potential neighbourhoods for your small business

So how do you home in on the best area for your small business? First, look to census data. Census data is collected every five years by Statistics Canada and offers useful info on families and households, income and earnings, population and dwelling counts and age and sex. Community profiles are also available all over Canada, which break down the population into the following:

  • Age categories
  • Gender
  • Common-law and marital status characteristics
  • Family and household characteristics including income
  • Languages and mobility status
  • Education statistics (as detailed as the major field of study)
  • Labour force activity
  • Occupations
  • Industries
  • Modes of transportation

See? Loads of useful stuff! This information can be incredibly valuable when you need to make location decisions, and can be found at the Statistics Canada website.

Other characteristics of your small business’ community

  • Assess the level of competition in that community.
  • Look for neighbourhood traffic generators – like big box stores, gas stations, schools or grocery stores – that may also attract customers into the area.
  • Depending on the type of business you’ll be opening, also consider the amount of vehicle and foot traffic.
  • Compare your community research to your market research, so you can match customer characteristics to what you find in your proposed neighbourhood.

It seems like a lot to take in, but it’s very important. After all, how well would an independent record store succeed deep in the suburbs? Or an organic baby food store in an industrial area?

Read more on finding the best location for your small business.

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