A generally positive business walk report from the City of Merritt is not without suggestions for improvement and identification of challenges, both of which reflect last year’s inaugural report.

In all, 102 businesses were surveyed by the city and volunteers, with 87 per cent reporting that business was good.

The top three challenges identified by the respondents this year were competition, a lack of qualified labour and customer leakage, which is customers leaving town to shop elsewhere. Customer leakage was also identified as one of the top three challenges in last year’s business walk.

Inadequate signage, and a lack of support from the municipality were the other top three challenges noted last year.

Common suggestions from 2016’s respondents on how to help businesses thrive were cleaning up the downtown, less red tape, lower taxes from city hall and an increase in signage.

These were similar to last year’s prevalent suggestions of improving local government support, signage and marketing.

Business and economic development manager Will George said the city will be conducting one-on-one conversations with business owners over the next six months to help them find solutions to their problems.

George said that signage was a strong issue with respondents last year.

Since that time the city has had a signage strategy plan completed, which contains plans to erect directional signage around town along with information kiosks.

George said there are now plans to increase the signage around the city in the future.

He said this year’s business walk focused on a breadth of businesses.

“Instead of just focusing in the downtown core, I made sure that the [volunteers] we had going out and talking to businesses went out to all different sectors in Merritt,” he said.

He said surveyors visited businesses such as the lumber mills and hotels, and the survey was available online.