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 http://www.dormify.com 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 nrf.com.


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 www.agmrc.org is hosted by the national Agricultural Resource Center (AgMRC.org) 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 ctordsen@iastate.edu 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

Population Changes in Iowa Cities

Annual population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau help cities to benchmark their performance in retaining and attracting new residents as well as new businesses. This report investigates population growth in Iowa cities from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013.

Thus far, only 275 of Iowa’s 946 cities have gained population in the current decade. the likelihood of population growth generally increased with city size.

Only 20 person of cities with fewer than 500 residents grew compared to:

  • 33 percent of cities of 500-2,499 residents
  • 47% of cities with 2.500-9.999 residents
  • 61% of cities with 10,000-49,999 residents
  • 70% of cities with 50,000 or more residents

The full report and city populations are found on Iowa State University webpage under Iowa Community Indicators Program ICIP, prepared by Liesl Eathington.


Fiscal Year 2013 Retail Trade Analysis Reports

Total taxable retail sales in Iowa increased by less than one percent in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013. The state’s total, nominal taxable sales of $34.8 billion in FY 2013 were 0.8 percent higher than in FY 2012. After adjusting for inflation, total statewide spending on taxable retail goods actually declined by 0.7 percent. On a per capita basis, taxable sales decreased by an inflation-adjusted 1.2 percent, dropping from $11,410 to $11,270 per person.
Iowa’s 21 metropolitan counties accounted for 68 percent of the total taxable sales in FY 2013. Per capita sales averaged $13,220 in metropolitan counties, compared to $8,560 for non-metro areas of the state (see Figure 1).
Real per capita sales declined by slightly less than 1.2 percent in metropolitan areas. The decline in non-metropolitan areas averaged about 1.8 percent (see Figure 2).
Retail trade analysis reports for individual communities are available on the Iowa Community Indicators Web site at www.icip.iastate.edu/retail. The reports examine local retail sales and related economic trends using a variety of comparative performance measures. The retail analysis is based on state-reported sales of goods and services that are subject to Iowa’s statewide sales tax. Reports are available for all 99 counties and 633 cities in Iowa.

Retail Lessons from Mom

Mom worked in retail for over 45 years and unconsciously passed along some principles of retail management that, only now, I am recognizing:

  1. Cheers – The final episode of Cheers aired 20 years ago and was viewed by over 80 million people.  Mom knew the power of “everyone knows your name” while being employed in various retail shops.  Mom knew everyone’s name and in many cases their parents and children’s names.  She knew the likes and dislikes of customers as well as their temperament. This was evidenced when said customer came into the front door and all other employees headed to the basement to count inventory.
  2. Know your product – Whether Mom was selling ice cream, shoes, dresses or laptops; she made it her job to know what she was selling (granted laptops was a bit of a stretch for her).  If you want to compete with large retail stores, know your product.  It is a great disappointment for me when I shop a main street retailer and the employee they have hired does not have a clue what they are selling.  Here is a great opportunity to differentiate yourself from the big guys, don’t pass it up
  3. Grumps need not apply – A couple of weeks ago, I made a purchase locally and as I walked out the door I decided that I was not going to return to this retailer.  I realize we all have bad days and I am pretty tolerant when it is obvious that things are just not going well, but when a person is inherently grumpy and argumentative with a customer I think to myself, “Do they really want my business?”  In my case, it was the owner of the business.  I believe keeping a sincere positive attitude with all sorts of retail customers on a daily basis is a tremendous gift ranking right up there with Mother Teresa.  If you have a gifted employee, I trust you recognize their worth to your bottom line.  Want to grow your sales by 5% this year?  Try some hospitality training for your employees or get rid of the sour puss that is doing more damage than good, even if he/she is your third cousin by marriage. 

In most regional trade centers in Iowa, the customer does have an alternative choice to do business.  Let’s make sure that the retail choices include a local business.

Google Places

Social Media has been around for many years now and I have started sorting through; things that work well for rural small businesses and things that may not work so well.  In Twitter  if you use the hashtag #social media you will have all kinds of suggestions as the “Top 10 Social Media platforms”.  I have registered with about 30 of these programs, with  the desire to learn how rural small businesses may benefit from various social media offerings.  My criteria is derived from numerous discussions with retail owners about social media which include; Cost, Time consumption, Ease of use and Effectiveness.

In today’s internet savvy world it is important that our business information is available to search engines such as; Google, Yahoo and Bing.  Google searches receives the top amount of searches as compared to the other two.  It is quite easy to set up a directory within Google Places, most business can complete the whole process in less than 15 minutes. Google Places is free and will provide the information consumers need to know about your business.

Iowa Retail Initiative has created a video, “Starting with Google Places” that will take you step by step through the process.  We have also created videos for both Yahoo and Bing dependent upon your choice of system.  Iowa Retail Initiative as a program within ISU Extension and Outreach and has responded to a number of retail related questions from Iowa’s communities.  The videos found in the following IRI link are some of those questions being asked by Iowa Communities for all Iowans to share.

For more information link to the Iowa Retail Initiative web page.