I Bet They're Right. But How Can We Tell?

 

If you are anything like me, you love community, retail and public places.


(This article can be listened to - video, 3m57s.)

You think that the community coming together to spend time, money and effort in a commercial area, run by retailers who are pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation, is a real blast.

I've seen lots of reports and had lots of conversations that explore this. Shopping centre managers, local governments, state governments, chambers of commerce, business improvement districts and retailers themselves all examine and explore this wonderful phenomenon of people coming together in retail places.

In 2009 I sat down to hear Jan Gehl speak. This lecture really stimulated my transformation from 'Retail Leasing Executive' to 'Founding CEO of A Beautiful City'. It covered all the positive transformations the City of Perth could take (and has taken) to create greater community activity in the city centre (which we all know is a retail area, right?).

His reports gave clear, before-and-after, qualitative charts showing the increases in cafe tables, street trees, bicycle paths, population and other things over a fifteen year period. Of course, he also went to the trouble to take foot traffic statistics.

I was shocked.

The people-counting method included recruiting student volunteers to stand on the street and manually count people. They couldn't do this all year, of course, so slices of activity were taken throughout the year - fifteen minutes each hour on two summer days, and then fifteen minutes each hour on two winter days.

These figures were then extrapolated out to give 'final' pedestrian data for particular streets.

I don't think so!

I was so shocked but I also thought, "Well, what else are they supposed to do?".

I thought this could be my chance to assist.

With my intimate knowledge of the shopping centre industry I knew I could contribute by adapting people-counting technology and applying it to public places, so we never have to hear a story of a backpacker on a street corner, with a chrome clicker in hand, calling it science.

Well, fast forward three years and a whole lot of passion later and we now have it, and the first one is already installed!

So I thank everyone who has embraced this story by jumping on board with this exciting and incredible technology.

We can now count, 24/7, how many people are using your street. It's cheaper and more accurate (and I will guarantee that) than 'student counters' and of course, it's permanent, so instead of 'fifteen minutes now and then' we can get rich layers of pedestrian counts by the hour, day, month, quarter - or whatever - all year, every year.

Shopping centre managers, chambers of commerce, local government, business district managers and retailers all tell you: "More people is better."

I bet they're right. But how can we tell?

Above: This graph shows foot traffic statistics since Monday this week (each colour denotes a different day). The x-axis (left) are numbers of people per hour (numbers have been removed). The y-axis (bottom) are the 24 hours of the day.

Today is green (Thursday is traditionally late-night shopping day in Perth). You can already see the green line kicking up in the evening, against the trend of the other days, denoting greater Thursday-evening foot traffic.

Below: This shows pedestrian data for each day in May, since the 5th, when records began at this location. The big finger is Saturday 11 May and is shopping traffic on the day prior to Mothers Day, 2013.

Please visit our people-counting page for even more information.

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