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Local Business Survey Shows Optimism About the Future

Things are looking up for small business, according to Patch’s first survey of Massachusetts business owners.

(If you’re a business owner and would like to be invited to participate in future local business surveys, fill out this short form.)

Massachusetts’s business owners are bullish on the economy, according to the results of the inaugural Patch Local Business Survey.

Business owners reported seeing improvements to their business in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same quarter last year, and are optimistic that things will get even better in the coming year.

More than 69 percent of the 82 business owners that answered the survey last week said they expect business will be better in the next 12 months.

“We are seeing increased traffic and sales! Consumer confidence is getting stronger with the upcoming election,” wrote one survey participant.

The Patch Local Business Survey included a total 82 respondents from across the state. Survey participants own a variety of small businesses as far south as Martha’s Vineyard and as far north as North Andover; as far east as Marblehead and as far west as Westford. The survey area also included several Boston neighborhoods, including Back Bay and West Roxbury, and parts of Greater Boston, including Somerville, Malden, Medford, and Melrose.

More than 48 percent said they expect business in the year ahead to be somewhat better and more than 20 percent said they expect it will be much better. Another 20.7 percent said they expect it will remain about the same, while 7.3 percent said they expect it will be somewhat worse and 2.4 percent said they expect it will be much worse.

'Consumer Confidence Has Definitely Improved'

When asked to rate their business performance this quarter (Jan. – March) 12.2 percent said “fantastic,” 32.9 percent said “good,” 32.9 percent said “average,” 18.3 percent said “bad,” and 3.7 percent said “awful.”

More than 75 percent said this quarter was the same or better than last quarter (Oct., 2011-Dec. 2011).

“It seems that consumer confidence has definitely improved over the past three months,” wrote one business owner.

Another optimistic business owner wrote, “We have seen an increase in business (from both existing customers and new customers) over the last quarter. We are optimistic and looking forward to a good 2012.”

Real Estate Pros Are Optimistic Too

Several comments came from real estate professionals all who said the housing market was improving.

“All the statistics we are seeing show that….we are at the tipping point in the housing market and we have been off to a great start,” wrote one real estate professional.  Another said, “Things are turning around and buyers are getting wonderful deals with interest rates so low.”  Still another said, “….In the first quarter of 2012 we’re seeing an increase in home buying, but sellers are still not seeing significant gains in home pricing yet.”

Not everyone agreed with this rosy picture. “The so-called experts are wrong! Small business is still suffering….Have you seen all the businesses that closed…..lately? Have you also seen all the empty shops everywhere? But, I still do have hope :)”

Some Recommendations From Business Owners

A few participants offered recommendations. “To be successful in this climate a retailer has to work harder to keep expenses down, offer goods in the ‘right’ price range, provide excellent service and personal attention to the customers…..it is the job of the local retailer to offer something no internet vendor can: personal relationships and individual attention…”

Still another suggested the government can do more. “The government needs to cut expenses and taxes so the general public has more money to spend….”

Keep in mind that the 82 respondents to this survey are a self-selected group of local businesses that are active on Patch sites in Massachusetts, and decided to opt in to this survey.

(If you’re a business owner and would like to be invited to participate in future local business surveys, fill out this short form.)
 
Also, while diverse geographically, the respondents are not scientifically representative of local businesses statewide, or even of such party actors in areas covered by Patch sites. Nonetheless, they likely reflect the demographics and geography of the 74 Massachusetts communities served by Patch.

The following business owners participated in the survey and agreed to have their names listed here. Other business owners participated in the survey but chose not to have their names listed.

, Chelmsford, Mass.

, Chelmsford, Mass.

, Danvers, Mass.

, Danvers, Mass.

, Canton, Mass.

, Beacon Hill (Boston), Mass.

, Hamilton, Mass.

, Beverly, Mass.

, Danvers, Mass.

, Andover, Mass.

, Medford, Mass.

, Hamilton, Mass.

, Marblehead, Mass.

, Vineyard Haven, Mass.

, Marblehead, Mass.

, Malden, Mass.

, Melrose, Mass.

, Charlestown (Boston), Mass.

, Hyannis, Mass.

, Danvers, Mass.

, Malden, Mass.

, Danvers, Mass.

, Hamilton, Mass.

, Marblehead, Mass.

, Andover, Mass.

, Danvers, Mass.

, Foxborough, Mass.

, Danvers, Mass.

, Andover, Mass.

, Danvers, Mass.

, Melrose, Mass.

Newbury Street League, Back Bay (Boston), Mass.

, Vineyard Haven, Mass.

, Osterville, Mass.

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