Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Report allows Main Street to track Washington’s progress

Aug 10, 2018

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


As a resource for startup businesses to the downtown area, Main Street Washington is able to give advise on how much demand there is for a business as well as how businesses should be marketed. For this, director Sarah Grunewaldt turns to, among other things, a report from Main Street Iowa that looks at demograpics and reveunue of cities.

Looking over the data on such things as census and shopping patterns, Grunewaldt is able to glean information on the financial health of the community to assist people hoping to capitalize on a new market or an existing market. She explained the data is broken down into subcategories to take into account where the money is being spent. The study can extend out further and Grunewaldt is able to examine numbers from inside the city, from the entire county, or from the entire state based on the amount of drive times.

“They can figure out on average what people are spending their money on,” she explained. “Based on statistics they create a demand number and then track those sales. If you are looking to open a business or expand a business this is a really good snapshot of places people spend their money and places people value spending their money”

Each business is assigned a code, which Main Street Iowa uses to track supply and demand for the community based on population size, income levels, and spending patterns.

One thing that jumped out at Grunewaldt when she was examining the data was the grocery numbers. She said the numbers seemed off, as if they did not include all grocery sales.

“It was likely because when our Walmart moved from the west side of town to the east side of town likely they were not included in the city limits,” she said. “They also added a grocery side and maybe those grocery numbers were not being categorized correctly so it reflected them in our community and they were in a different category.”

The superstore, she said, draws people not only from town, but from nearby towns as well. In the grocery category, however, the shows consumers in the area spending $32 million above projected sales estimates. Specialty food stores, on the other hand, are shown to be an underserved market. Grunewaldt said there have been some discussions, but no official plans to add new specialty food stores at this time.

Another area the study details is consumer spending, which shows how much people spend per household in a specific area. These figures show businesses looking at expanding how much is spent yearly on certain items. Numbers talk about census numbers and home numbers, including the median price. Grunewaldt said this is very helpful when looking at the home market.

“One of the things I found really interesting is currently we have an 8 percent vacancy rate,” she said. “Most of our homes are owner-occupied. There are fewer rentals. In the rental market we have a 2 percent rate. This is helpful when we discuss plans to expand the housing market.”

The numbers also show where there are spending gaps, which Grunewaldt describes as areas where people from within the area spend money somewhere else. While not every market exceeds expectations, Grunewaldt said about half the Washington markets earn more money than predicted.

“That means people are shopping within their communities,” she said. “Our retail sales are good. It is an indicator that we are doing well. Do we have room for improvement? Absolutely.”

There are also resources through Main Street Iowa that can help with business planning as well as resources through the small business planning center in the area that can do market studies. The information can help budding businessowners determine who their market will be, how to market themselves and how to grow a customer base.

For more information or assistance from Main Street Iowa contact Grunewaldt at 653-3918.

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