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Thursday, July 25, 2024

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Avalon Visitors Head Elsewhere to Shop…

By Christine Cote

AVALON – Borough vacationers aren’t apt to stay put and may well be found traveling to Stone Harbor, Cape May or Ocean City. Lesser numbers will find their way to Sea Isle City and the Wildwoods.
Tony Fulginiti, of ie communication of Turnersville, shared that information, along with more habits of visitors and residents, with borough council Oct. 5, as he presented his find-ings on data collected between May 27 and Sept. 15.
Fulginiti’s firm, which has a contract to provide the borough with communications serv-ices, assisted the borough’s Economic Development Advisory Committee in compiling and analyzing the information.
Surveys, which included 21 questions, were available around town for people to voluntar-ily complete. Summer interns interviewed others. In all, 527 people responded.
In all categories – visitors, vacationers, those who live here in the summer and year round residents – beaches ranked as the biggest motive for coming here, cited by 71 per-cent.
But, said Fulginiti, “Avalon loses market to Stone Harbor for shopping, to Cape May for dining and to Ocean City for special events.”
Adjacent Stone Harbor was the biggest draw, with 71 percent responding that while here they also visit there.
Which is why store’s like Breezin’ Up on 96th Street there, stocks just as many clothing items that say Avalon as those that say Stone Harbor, according to Natacha Nicolau, store manager.
Cape May attracts 55 percent and Ocean City 44 percent. Sea Isle is next with 29 per-cent, and Wildwood attracts 27, North Wildwood 15 and Wildwood Crest 11 percent.
“Tradition,” at 49 percent, and family activities, at 40 percent, followed beaches for rea-sons people came to Avalon, although the numbers were highest for those who vacationed or lived here during the summer.
Only 27 percent came for dining and 26 percent for shopping.
In fact, “more people go to Stone Harbor to shop than come to Avalon to the beach; only one in four come here to shop,” said Fulginiti. “The parking issue dominates shopping.”
When asked what they shopped for in the borough, 52 percent (the highest) said it was for gifts. After that came clothing, candy and pastry, and books. Only 30 percent came to shop for art and less than that came for jewelry, antiques, home furnishings, to get a haircut or other beauty treatment, shoes or surfing needs.
Avalon needs more “mys” said Fulginiti. They won’t go for a haircut unless they go to “my barbershop.” They might only associate other stores with ones they patronize at home.
Stores need “better identity, better product or better communication, ” said Fulginiti. In order to compete with Stone Harbor, “it needs Avalon-only features.”
Year-round residents had lowest numbers for shopping overall, but did go to shoe stores, surf shops, beauty and barbershops more than visitors.
Suggestions for added shopping were a hardware store followed by a pharmacy. Those who responded to the open-ended question would also like to see more women and chil-dren’s clothing shops and an upscale restaurant.
Fulginiti said the restaurant was high on everyone’s list and “everyone wants that year round.”
As to boosting activities or getting more people to participate in those that are held, said Fulginiti, “Avalon has to have its own identity, not mimic” what other communities are do-ing.
Some suggested events from the survey were teen dances, art shows, beach concerts, a movie theater and movies on the beach.
He explained that it was not a scientific study and that focus groups will need to be used to fully understand some responses, such as the low number of 13 percent that see the bor-ough as a place for value.
Fulginiti explained that what people were thinking when they answered that isn’t really clear.
Overall those who took the time to tell surveyors the borough’s strongest and weakest fea-tures, answered:
o Strongest: beaches, quiet, clean, safe and family-oriented.
o Weakest: parking, no hardware store, no pharmacy, traffic congestion and the board-walk.
What they meant by boardwalk here is something that will require further study through a focus group, said Fulginiti. He also said that those who criticized parking mentioned it most often in the shopping areas, not at the boardwalk.
Only 355 were asked about parking since it was revised to include that question after it started and only 233 of those responded to the added question.
Fulginiti told council he would recommend that borough hire a special events coordinator.
“Look for someone who can manage it and is creative,” like the “little genius that’s been doing it for Ocean City,” he said. That would be Mark Soifer.
Contact Cote at: ccote@cmcherald.com

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