By Beth Bily
Businesses thinking of expanding locally or moving to the area from elsewhere now have a new tool to help them refine their strategy.
The Grand Rapid Economic Development Authority, in partnership with Itasca Economic Development Corp., the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Grand Rapids, recently released an analysis of the Grand Rapids retail market.
The Market Area Profile report defines the geographic boundary of the retail trade area, which includes most of Itasca County, identifies the demographic characteristics of customers and estimates their retail product and service purchases, utilizing the “Community Tapestry” system of analysis.
Local officials say that existing businesses, potential businesses and economic development organizations can use the information to better serve their markets, develop individual business plans, and in the preparation of development strategies.
Grand Rapids Community Development Director Rob Mattei said that the main goal of the market study is greater business success.
“We all benefit when a (local) business is successful,” said Mattei. “One way to do that is to help businesses understand the market that they’re in.”
A similar study was completed in 2007. Mattei noted, however, that the information in such reports is only relevant for a few years. His office, he added, frequently receives calls from businesses and developers that are looking for demographic information in Grand Rapids and the Itasca area.
The University of Minnesota Extension completed the study. Researchers John Bennett and Ryan Pesch compiled information on local population, housing occupancy data, median income, household size, median age, gender and ethnicity breakdowns.
The study also analyzed where local residents get their information – newspapers, radio, television and Internet – which could help businesses develop marketing strategies.
“We’ve already talked to a number of developers and property owners that have multi-tenant properties,” said Mattei. “Most are excited we’ve done this. It gives them tools when they’re looking to recruit people to their dwellings.”
The report also analyzed areas that appear to have significant gaps between the supply and demand of retail businesses. The study found that there are significantly fewer businesses than demand would support in the following areas: beauty salons, personal goods repair, nail salons, limited service eating places, cosmetics/beauty supplies, used car dealers, barber shops and personal care services (tattoos, spas, piercing).
While the report may or may not lead to a cluster of new beauty salon start-ups, the information does provide a starting point for business owners.
“The study really provided economic development folks in our region with current data that we can use and put in the hands of existing businesses or prospective businesses who may want to expand into other retail areas where gaps exist in our marketplace,” said Mark Zimmerman, President and CEO of IEDC.
“What we’d like to do is get this information into people’s hands and then they can decide if it’s useful,” said Mattei.
Although it’s yet to be released, researchers also are working on a addendum to the report that will analyze seasonal elements of the local retail market.
The seasonal data, said Mattei, will help local resorts and hotels better understand who their customers are.
The full report is available to the public at the Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority website: www.grandrapidseda.com. Visitors should click under the “development news” section for a link to the report.