BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Tracking spending habits is likely neither an art nor a science. For decades, retailers have relied on pricey market research from advisors before decisions are made to invest in a particular community or region. Advisors help answer questions about the ability of consumers to support a new store or the latest franchised restaurant. One part art; one part science.
The state’s lead economic development organization, WEDC, now gives casual browsers the opportunity to see track and compare consumer spending habits, starting at a community level or expanding the observations to county levels and beyond. WEDC contracts with Applied Geographic Solutions (AGS) to make this happen. AGS says it’s the leading supplier of premium demographic, risk and marketing databases, making the company a big part of the science behind consumer spending estimates.
From WEDC’s website, here are a couple examples, courtesy of AGS. Within a five mile radius around St. Croix County, an estimated $2,332 per household is spent on apparel each year, and women’s apparel expenditures leads all categories at $764 per household. Around $453 per household is spent on men’s apparel. Without starting an argument, one number seems really low and the other really high. Draw your own conclusions. An estimated $9,682 per household is spent on food and beverages, and of that total, $3,931 is spent annually on food away from home. Another $663 is spent on alcoholic beverages. Because St. Croix County residents are mostly commuters (“road warriors”) it may come as no surprise that county households spend $3,585 on gasoline and oil each year. In an “oops” category, AGS suggests $339 per household is spent on cigarettes. Oops.
AGS also offers insights into retail potential, suggesting $4,614 per household could be attributable to new car dealers, or $7,498 for grocery stores, or $3,618 for department stores. Good news for mail order and catalog stores, the retail potential in greater St. Croix County is estimated at $2,731 per household.
Given St. Croix’s close proximity to the Twin Cities, area residents generally have high incomes and strong consumer spending per household is reflected. The sale of goods and services as a convenience may also align with busy lifestyles, as in “What are we making tonight, besides reservations?”