Downtown Syracuse business owners have grown increasingly concerned over the infrequent stream of retail customers visiting the downtown area. Although weekends and afternoons still seem to be steady times for shopping downtown, daytime shoppers are few and far between.
The main reason for this lack of business is simply that the majority of shoppers with disposable income are either students or employed adults who are at work during the 9-5 downtown “dry period.”
Reaching the right audience
The best solution to the lack of downtown foot traffic during these hours is to reach the Baby Boomer demographic, which includes a very high percentage of retired men and women with more time during their day and a high percentage of the areas purchasing power.
This audience, comprised of the 50-65 age range, has interest and income to exert on the downtown coffee shops, restaurants and retail shopping. Once they are downtown, they are an audience very likely to engage in all that the downtown area has to offer. Getting them to the downtown area from the surrounding suburbs seems to be what holds this demographic back from engagement, regardless of the “Cultural District” initiatives the downtown area has implemented to establish itself as a region of existing and potential arts and cultural experiences.
Transportation holds them back
The question remains of why this demographic is not already taking full advantage of the retail, restaurants and other community programs the downtown area has to offer. Transportation is a large factor. With competitive parking situations in many downtown areas, driving can be a hassle when venturing downtown. Public transportation and busses for this demographic could solve the problem if they were more educated about schedules, routes and availability and ease.
Weather warrants staying home
Harsh winter weather conditions also pose a problem for downtown businesses. The downtown Syracuse structure promotes walkability, but this can seem like more of an inconvenience than an enjoyable experience for older people in the cold, snowy winters. While the thought of browsing a store or enjoying a nice lunch while the snow comes down outside is an attractive one, battling the wind and weather from the parking location to the restaurant or store location seems like quite a feat, especially when restaurants outside the downtown area are sure to have easy door front parking.
The most attractive solution refers again back to busses as an easy and convenient way to get downtown without battling the inconveniences of weather. Increased awareness of the bus schedules, routes, and the ease and convenience of travel is an imperative step toward the increase of downtown traffic during the day. The creation of a schedule that is more easily understood and straightforward could be a positive step in the right direction.
The lack of downtown foot traffic during the weekday could be solved quite easily with the implementation of convenience measures. The large Baby Boomer demographic is willing to enjoy the multitudes of activities that the downtown area has to offer, as long as it is not difficult to travel to, park in, or navigate the downtown area. Taking measures to increase the convenience and transparency of the public transportation system will remove many of the barriers that keeps this consumer base from venturing downtown. Removing parking and navigation issues, especially in the harsh winter weather, by increasing the use of public transportation, is a huge step toward an increase in general daytime engagement with downtown Syracuse.