Cultural Differences in Retail

20160405_230558 Hui-Siang Tan is the author of today’s blog post.  She is a Ph.D. student studying Entrepreneurship at Iowa State University.  She was part of the Iowa Retail Initiative for the first few years.  We thought it would be interesting for Hui to share some reflections on the differences between retail in her home country of Malaysia and in the United States.  Let’s see what she has to share with us!

Retail provides job opportunities and economic development to the local community. Taking advantage of being an international student majoring in business retail in merchandising and apparel, I was able to experience hands-on working practicums and developing professional managing skills in retail management after receiving my bachelor degree in the U.S. in 2004. These practicums and learning experiences collectively inspired my interest in continuing to study entrepreneurship for my doctorate degree at Iowa State University.

In this blog post, I would like to discuss and share some of my thoughts about retail business in my home country of Malaysia and in the U.S. Working in both countries, I learned that retail is all about selling. Therefore, the art of selling is an essence of the business, and the keys of selling include retail merchandising, visual merchandising and store design, customer service, and omni-channel marketing.

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Students work in Marshalltown

The Iowa Retail Initiative works to provide and connect Iowans to resources to improve retail in their communities. One of the ways we do that is by matching community development needs with student learning activities. Here’s the story of a retail interior design class from Fall Semester 2015.

 

image001Thirty-three Iowa State junior interior design students worked with 13 local retailers in Marshalltown to propose design recommendations for the local retail stores.  To address the local diversity in retail offerings half of the participating retail locations included diverse ethnic stores.

 

Students first visited their Marshalltown 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 spaces.  Students returned to Marshalltown at the end of September to present their recommendations to their retail partners during an open presentation event.

 

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Some of the positive feedback from the retail owners included:

  • Students were professional and thorough
  • Design proposals were creative
  • Proposals gave owners new ideas that included easy to implement changes and long term goals
  • Some retailers began implementing some proposal changes including grouping merchandise

Are you interested in a similar project in your community?  Contact Program Coordinator Susan Erickson at <susaneri@iastate.edu> to discuss the possibilities!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting There – Creating safe and pleasant routes to your downtown

IRI founders come from diverse backgrounds.  Today’s post is written by IRI founder and landscape architect, Tom Neppl.  He is a lecturer for the College of Design at ISU.  Tom’s blogpost today helps us think about downtown in new ways.  Our downtowns are about much more than banners and adequate parking spaces!  See what Tom has to say:

No place is perfect. Each small town faces individual but similar issues that threaten vitality and character. But, what are the issues? Are there too many cars? Are motorists driving too fast? Is the area unsafe for pedestrians? These questions and others need to be answered to identify and address existing problems.

Understanding the problem or range of problems is the first step in developing effective solutions.Ames main street

A survey administered by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Street Coalition found that 66% of Americans want transportation options, 73% feel they currently have no choice but to drive, and 57% would like to spend less time in the car. So, there’s a demand for alternatives to driving downtown.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people are willing to walk to destinations but they want safe routes. With that in mind, how can we enhance existing routes and create new ones to make them safe?

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s Design Manual for Small Towns provides the following strategies to address problems in small communities:

CrosswaIMG_3797lks. Clearly marked crosswalks indicate to pedestrians the proper locations for crossing roadways. They also contribute to pedestrian comfort and create important linkages in the community’s pedestrian system. Visibility matters! A ladder pattern or a solid pattern of color in the crosswalk is more visible than the commonly used two parallel lines marking the edge of the crosswalk. Lighting should also be provided to increase sight distance at night.

 

 

 

Trails. Sharing the road with vehicles can be dangerous and creates an uncomfortable setting for the rural bike lanepedestrian and the cyclist. Trails provide pedestrians and cyclists a transportation network dedicated specifically to them by removing the pedestrians and cyclists from vehicular traffic. The result is improved safety for all users. Trails can also be used to provide links to parks and other natural areas through the creation of a greenway.

 

Bike Lanes. Similarly with trails, bike lanes provide a dedicated location for bicyclists to ride and intend to reduce conflicts with cars and pedestrians. The difference is bike lanes are typically integrated within the vehicular roadway. Bike lanes are recommended only on streets where traffic speeds are 25mph or less. Lanes can be between five to six feet wide and can be striped within roadways that have ample right-of-way space. Bike lanes are typically striped along the right edge of the roadway.

Landscaping.  Strwalkability 1ong landscaping has the potential for many positive effects on vehicular, bicycling and pedestrian routes. Landscaping enhances the street environment by projecting an image that the street is part of a place, rather than a “through route”. Proper landscaping can increase neighborhood ownership, commitment to place and can improve property values. Additionally, landscaping provides separation between motorists and pedestrians can reduce the roadway’s effective width causing drivers to slow down and can increase the driver’s awareness of the immediate environment.

Individually or collectively, these strategies contribute to safe and pleasant routes to a community’s downtown. For other ideas, resources and case studies, visit the Project for Public Spaces  and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

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.

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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 (leathing@iastate.edu) 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.

Webrooming

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.

(smallbiztrends.com)

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.