Register now for the 2016 Iowa Retail Initiative Summit

04_Vertical-Full-01Registration will close this week for our FREE June 23 retail summit.  Don’t miss this opportunity! The summit will connect local community retail and economic leaders with resources  to help develop thriving communities. Community leaders will also share their retail and economic needs with Iowa Retail Initiative directors, and check out other communities at the Community Showcase.

The goals of this summit are to provide an opportunity to learn about the Iowa Retail Initiative, resources available to Iowa’s communities, and showcase the great communities across the state.

Registration is required by June 10th for attendance and meal count. Please find the agenda and registration here.

Use the comments box below to ask questions.

What’s the retail situation in your city?

Iowa State University has resources in the Department of Economics to help you stay up to date on retail trade information.  Fiscal Year 2015 retail trade analysis reports are now available from the Iowa Community Indicators Program (ICIP) website. These reports are produced annually for all counties and most cities with 250 or more residents.
New for this year, we’ve also developed an interactive application to explore broad retail trends across Iowa. The statewide overview shows long-term trends in total taxable sales. The MSA overview compares sales levels for Iowa’s nine MSA regions. The county overview shows average per capita sales and 30-year trends on a county-by-county basis. The peer group compares average per capita sales levels for rural counties, metropolitan core counties, and three other county groups. Find the retail overview here, and let us know what you think.


Highlights from this year’s analysis include:
• Iowa’s taxable retail sales collections topped $37.5 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, up nearly 3.9 percent over the prior year on an inflation-adjusted basis.
• Iowa’s 21 metropolitan counties captured 68.6 percent of the state’s total taxable retail sales in FY2015.
• Statewide real sales per capita grew by 3.3 percent over the prior year, averaging $12,040 during FY2015. Metropolitan counties averaged $13,604 in per capita sales, while non-metro counties averaged $8,903 in per capita sales.
• Clay County had the highest per capita average among all counties, with $17,814 in per capita sales.

We’re always happy to answer questions about the retail trade analysis reports, so please call (515-294-2954) or send an e-mail ( to Liesl Eathington in the Department of Economics if you have questions.

Iowa Retail Initiative 2016 Summit

What’s happening at the Iowa Retail Initiative right now? We are excited to be planning for the Iowa Retail Initiative 2016 Summit! We just released news about registration last week. If you missed the announcement, here’s everything you need to know:

04_Vertical-Full-01Registration is now open for the Iowa Retail Initiative 2016 Summit on Thursday, June 23rd, from 9:30-4:00 at Reiman Gardens in Ames. This event is free to those who register, but space is limited so register early!

This summit will provide an opportunity to engage local community retail and economic leaders with resources available to help develop thriving communities. Community leaders will also be able to share their retail and economic needs and have the opportunity to showcase their community during the event’s closing exhibition.

The daylong summit will focus on the research and assistance available at ISU, as well as from other state programs which address community and retail needs. The goals of this summit are to provide an opportunity to learn about the Iowa Retail Initiative, resources available to Iowa’s communities, and showcase the great communities across the state.

Registration is required by June 10th for attendance and meal count. Please find the agenda and registration here.

If you need overnight accommodations there is a special rate at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center, 800-FOR-AMES. Please identify the Iowa Retail Initiative Summit to receive the discounted rate. This rate is available if reservations are made by June 1, 2016.

We hope to see you there!

(RE)introducing the Iowa Retail Initiative

04_Vertical-Full-01ISU members of the Iowa Retail Initiative are looking forward to getting to know you again for the first time, with this re-invigoration of our blog and social media outreach. The Iowa Retail Initiative was launched in 2013, as part of a special program offering from Dr. Cathann Kress. Here’s how her office introduced the program:

As part of our program portfolio we initiate programs that strategically integrate resources across the university and land-grant system and are multi-disciplinary, diversified, and address signature issues. Through the Vice President for Extension and Outreach Strategic Initiatives process, funding is provided to innovative projects and programs which through their development will strengthen our overall portfolio.

The Iowa Retail Initiative was begun with two principal objectives:
• Objective One: Finding and bridging gaps in current ISU retail programs and projects
• Objective Two: Create a unified, ongoing retail program that provides equity of access to resources at Iowa State University

Our initial assessment and inventory of the ISU retail assistance footprint indicated that ISU offers several programs for retail assistance, but it may be difficult to find them all. The IRI team has worked to create and strengthen connections among ISU units as well as to provide information about existing programs to our constituents.

One of the most innovative ways we provide assistance to Iowa retailers is through student class projects. ISU students from several departments work with communities and retailers as part of their coursework. Students bring creativity, expertise, and new ideas to Iowa communities and businesses. You’ll hear more about these projects in future blog posts. You can get a sneak peek HERE.

Since IRI’s inception in August 2013, we have worked with 31 communities 154 retailers, and provided 530 students with real-world learning experiences. We design these projects as a win-win situation, working to provide creative ideas to communities and businesses, while enhancing the educational experience for ISU students. You’ll hear more about this in future blog posts as well.

What’s happening in the future for Iowa Retail Initiative? The Iowa Retail Summit will be held on June 23. You’ll hear more about this next week, but in the meantime, registration is open and you can sign up HERE, if you just can’t wait until the next blog post.


Showrooming is a term we are all familiar with; the process of finding an item to purchase in a brick and mortar showroom and then purchasing it on the internet. There were even articles discussing whether there was a need for brick and mortar, as everything may be purchase in the internet.  Webrooming is the complete opposite of show-rooming; with Webrooming the consumer finds the item on the internet and then purchases it in the the store.  You may think that Webrooming is for older consumers, but it cuts across all generations.

Why to Consumers Webroom:

Particularly when they could just as easy order the product online – why add that extra step?

  • 47 percent  don’t want to pay for shipping.
  • 46 percent want to see and touch a product before buying it.
  • 42 percent want to check in store availability online – then go to the store so they don’t waste a trip.
  • 37 person want to be able to return products to a physical store.
  • 23 percent don’t want to wait for delivery.


It has always been a challenge to be inretailing, but being a small retailer may have just have been given some hope.  It will demand that you have a webpage with an integrated shop inventory, just another tool to be used wisely.


Valentines Day



Valentines day is the large retail shopping day with total sales being 13.2 billion dollars. Most husbands will purchase chocolates (47%), Cards (52%) jewelry(17.%), flowers (34%) and dinner out (34%), these are the traditional items and continually rank in the top categories.

I am not a romantic husband and I struggle each year what to purchase my wife, after 38 years of marriage I still struggle with this holiday. I’ve done a little research asking ladies what non traditions gifts would be appropriate Valentine season:

  • A night away from the family. A hotel with a hot tub can be a great escape. A single rose in the room is a nice touch.
  • A number of husband are pretty good in the kitchen and may cook up a special meal.  A scented candle and a massage before bed.
  • I’m not much of a poet but my father in law is and writes her a poem with flowers. They have been married 65 years, must work.
  • Perfumed bubble bath and scented Epsom salts to soak all the stress away, scented candle optional.
  • If you know your wife’s favorite author, purchase a hard cover book or order as an eBook and give it too here at her favorite coffee shop.
  • A photo album with the two of you on the cover, inside lists all the great times you have had together in the past year.
  • If you enjoy nature go to your favorite lake or nature site and watch the sunrise with a new quilt complete with Champagne, coffer or hot chocolates.

However you celebrate your Valentines day make it memorable.

Iowa State University Interior Design Retail Studio

22Iowa State junior interior design students worked with 14 local retailers in Storm Lake to propose design recommendations for the local retail stores. To address the local diversity in retail offerings half of the participating retail locations included Latino stores.

Students first visited their Storm Lake retail location in August to conduct a site visit. The two student design teams met with the store owners to learn more about the store, their customers, the merchandise, and any needs the store owner would like to address. During this first site visit students documented the current store design through sketching and photography.

Students then went to work in Ames to customize design recommendations based on their findings during the site visit. The students addressed seven specific categories of retail design including: storefronts and entrances; planning and circulation; merchandising; materials and finishes; lighting; graphics; and behind the scenes. Students returned to Storm Lake last week to present their recommendations to their retail partners during an open presentation event.

What is your favorite food?

ann bookWhile riding home from the ISU campus on Cyride, I overheard what may have been an older sister or aunt asking an 8 year old girl, “What is your favorite food?” She thought for a second and then enthusiastically responded, “Papa Johns!”

I stated thinking to myself, “No, no, she meant what food do you like not what restaurant you like.”

But in this little girl’s mind, food and restaurants are intertwined through branding. When we have a great customer experience at a restaurant, the food ordered tends to taste better. It could be the service, the dish, the atmosphere or a kind, attentive waiter/waitress.

Branding is the use of a name, sign, symbol, design, or experience, or a combination of these, to identify and tell a story about goods/services/sellers that helps differentiate this offering from others (Neumeier, 2006; Schmitt, 1999). According to Understanding Aesthetics for the Merchandising and Design Professional, branding is: (Understanding aesthetics for the merchandising and design professional – 2nd edition by Ann-Marie Fiore)

  1. to increase awareness of the brand;
  2. to help the consumer differentiate it from competitors;
  3. and to imbue the brand with meanings that appeal to the consumer and further differentiate it from the competition.

As we conclude the 2nd largest retail shopping season (Back to School) and enter the largest holiday shopping season, we need to ask ourselves, “What is our customer’s favorite and how can we enhance their perception of our brand?”

What is it that brings customers back to your shop– hospitality, favorite food, location, price, quality or atmosphere? What is your favorite food?


According to Understanding Aesthetics for the Merchandising and Design Professional, branding is….from the competition




Back to School, already?

School Supplies 3It doesn’t seem possible that many of our schools in Iowa will be starting in less then 4 weeks.  The National Retail Federation released a consumer survey report and has provided a member-only webinar to discuss back to school (BTS) statistics and trends.  I would like to summarize the report and webinar within this post.

If you combine K-12 and College spending the total is up to $74.9 billion. K-12 is down slightly and College spending increase approximately 3%.  For the Midwest survey k-12 spending per student totaled $606; clothing – $220, shoes – $109, supplies – $88 and electronics – $189.

Back to School shopping ($74.9 Billion) is second only to Christmas spending ($601.8 Billion).  Although the BTS shopping may be in indicator for the holidays, it tends to be a smaller segment of the market and more of a needs driven purchase rather then wants driven.  At best it is an indicators of consumer spending but not necessarily a trend for holding spending.

Back to School trends:

  • Wear Now, Wear Later – This marketing campaign is being used by a number of large store retailers as a way to purchase now and further accessorize later for schools during some of the cooler months. (Purchase the  now shirt and and a sweater later)
  • Have Dad take you shopping – When Dad takes his kids shopping the amount spent tends to increase.  Also, Dad is more apt to purchase online or use online store pick up options.  Possibly this statistic has more to do with Dad purchasing electronic items for their student which also indicates an increased spending amount.
  • Early Bird shoppers on the decline – This may be a function of schools starting earlier and Iowa’s tax free weekend moving purchases closer to school start dates.
  • Dormify:  Not sure how to design your new dorm room?  Browse ideas from to accessorize your future dorm room.

Consumer confidence continues to rise although 5% below pre-depression levels.  Iowa retailers should see a BTS market similar to last year with increase use of online spending and the bundling of BTS products.  For further details contact


Using Market Maker for Aquaculture


Shrimp59 Holstein, Iowa

Holstein, Iowa

“Whether you are a local fresh produce farmer or a manager of a super market, MarketMaker is the perfect resource to help your business grow,” said Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Value Added Agriculture specialist Craig Tordsen. “MarketMaker is a comprehensive interactive database of food industry marketing and business data. It is one of the most extensive collections of searchable food industry data in the country.”

Each state has a unique site, but all the data from other MarketMaker states can be accessed from any state MarketMaker location. The national MarketMaker link at is hosted by the national Agricultural Resource Center ( at Iowa State University. The AgMRC link provides a click-able map of the entire United States. Participating states are highlighted, making it easy for users to navigate from state to state or to regionalize their data searches.

For more information about MarketMaker, contact the Iowa development team leader, Craig Tordsen at or 515-291-0966.

Using Market Maker you can locate Aquaculture farms in Iowa, retailers and demographics for consumption with in your market area.  The attached video, is an introductory series using MarketMaker using Aquaculture as an example of Value Added products in Iowa. Market Maker will provide you with the current Aquaculture farms in Iowa, potential retail markets in your market areas and the consumption of fish in a particle census tract.

Iowa Market Maker Aquaculture Video (6 min)

Iowa Market Maker web page