Saturday, 20 July 2013

Business attitudes towards Golowan and Mazey day, my survey

Following a number of comments on my blog and twitter about Golowan and it's effect on the town, it's funding and the effect on business, I thought I would investigate some of these claims for myself. I spoke to 20 business in Penzance East and asked them some questions about Golowan. Politicians of all varieties,
spend a great deal of time justifying their views, opinions and policies on what people think, or more precisely what they say people think. Phrases like 'the majority of people in my constituency', 'the people of...', 'people I speak to', 'ordinary decent people' and the like abound. In truth without talking to thousands of people, which in itself would be a full time job, we can't for certain say one thing or another. It became clear to me that the comments about Golowan were originating from a small number of sources. Myself my opinions were formed from what I knew or what I thought I knew, so in effect I was just as bad. All parties were guilty of making assumptions without proper research. I neither have the time or energy to speak to thousands of people so I spent a few mornings talking to a random selection of shops and traders on Causeway Head and Bread Street*, to try to get a better idea of what traders think.

About the questions:

To make things simple I thought I'd only ask 4 questions, to not unduly take up people's time and to make the results easier to understand. In hindsight, all 4 of the questions required 1 of 3 answers: yes, no and don't know/ not sure/ on the fence, this was a mistake. Only fundamentalists live in a world of black and white, there is lots of grey areas and perhaps my questions and received answers, could better reflect this.

I choose not to sugarcoat the questions, I wanted to know what businesses (managers, owners and shopkeepers) thought without any preconceptions about things. So for example the estimates for the millions brought into Penzance, I did not prompt people with. I gave the figure of the town council contribution to Golowan as it was in the question, I could have explained it costs the average Penzance ratepayer slightly more than the cost of a pint of beer a year, but I didn't. I tried to ask the questions without tainting the answers with my own preconceived ideas about the wonderful benefits (; of Golowan, although after the questions I wasn't shy about what I thought.

The first question was: "Do you like Golowan and Mazey Day?" I wanted to get a sense of attitudes toward the festival separately to figures and spending and see if there was a correlation between attitude and effect on business. I think some took the question as does your business like it and others as do you like it personally.

The second question was "Is Golowan/ Mazey Day good for your business?" Most seemed to take this question as referring to Mazey Day. This question provoked some definite yes and definite no answers, but also some grey area answers. Many of the yeses were very positive about it, recording record takings and explaining that Mazey Day the best day of the year.  5 respondents of the 11 nos (25%) explained that Mazey Day was a washout but either Golowan saw an increase in trade, or that customers choose to shop on days other than Mazey Day, so was far from bad for takings. We could easily move those 25% into the yes column or the don't know column. So the blanket yes or no question doesn't quite accurately cover it. All respondents bar one considered Mazey Day good for the town and welcomed events that brought people into Penzance. I didn't find any traders that don't open for Mazey Day, 2 were considering closing next year and 2 I didn't speak to, don't open for the day.

(A special mention to Kool Kutz the hair and beauty place on Bread Street, who knowing Mazey Day would not be great for business choose instead to bake cakes and sell them to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, well done.)

The next question: "Penzance Town Council contributes about 5% of the budget; £26,120 per year to Golowan is this a good spend?" Again there were some definite opinions for and against, as with any public spending. Some questioned why it cost so much, 2 were unsure without knowing (all the don't knows), one thought it was a complete waste. 2 thought it was great and would be happy to spend more on it. The majority view was that it was good for the town, the school kids loved it and it was good to see people brought into the town, thus positive.

The last question was: "If the town council stopped contributing would you pay in?" This was by far provoked the most interesting responses for me. By far the majority view was that costs are high enough for traders as it is, a most definite no! 3 respondents explained that they would contribute something, all keen to explain not a large amount, it's worth mentioning that none of them do well at all on Mazey Day but would put in for the good of the town and businesses other than there own. The don't know/ not sures were all when I spoke to a member of staff, rather than the owner/ manager (2 instances) and the rest a chain store who didn't have the power to make that decision alone.

There are limits to this research it is by no means a comprehensive survey of town center businesses let alone all kinds of business. It was focused primarily on Bread Street and Causeway Head, missing out Chapel street, Market Jew street and Alverton street. However, I am confident that there is a majority answer to all of the questions and that I did speak to a sufficient variety of town center businesses to get a good feel for attitudes toward Golowan. I am confident that there is a positive attitude toward Golowan generally and in terms of business and that businesses are happy that the town council invests in it. 

*The full list of business surveyed is, many thanks to them for the time in speaking to me:
Mount's Bay Wine Company, Kool Kutz, Meeks Soft Furnishings, Exchange and Mart, Lou's Shoes, London Inn, Cancer Research, Rowe's Bakers, Thomson's Travel Agents, Blue Fur Ball, Mimi's Boutique, Spiegelhalter's Jewellers, Woot's News, Causeway Head Furnishings, Fur, Feather & Flowers, Jim's Cash & Carry, Supercards, St Justin, Malins pet foods,

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