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Extension > Source - Winter 2007 > Helping retail succeed in Minnesota

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Helping retail succeed in Minnesota

Who cares where Minnesotans shop? You do!

Retail businesses improve quality of life. They provide income to owners, jobs that stay in the community, and access to vital products for local residents.

Outside the seven-county metro area, retailers compete for more than $26 billion in retail trade every year. That's an average of $28,212 per household, which means that a town of just 1,000 households in greater Minnesota may have access to more than $28 million in retail trade each year. The household average increases to $31,906 when the seven-county metro area is included.

That's good news for Minnesota communities of all sizes—IF they can keep the retail trade in their communities. The reality is that retail sales are not spread evenly across the state. People can and do travel to other regions to spend their money.

Many communities have added "big box" retailers to encourage their residents to shop locally. More than half of Minnesota cities with populations between 5,000 and 10,000 and nearly all cities with populations over 50,000 have a Target, Wal-Mart or Kmart. Yet, a majority of retail stores are still small businesses, and many of those small retailers have suffered economic losses to the "big box" merchandisers over the last several decades.

Minnesota communities are learning how to grow local retail and coexist with big box stores with the help of two Extension programs that are making a difference in Minnesota.

Open sign

Small Stores Success Strategies identifies ways for retailers to grow in the shadow of big box retailers. Local business leaders learn how to prosper by refocusing on services and products big box retailers avoid. Businesses also get tips, based on Extension research, about what is important to consumers who choose local retail.

Retail Trade Analysis provides a comprehensive report for counties or communities with populations over 5,000 showing how their retail sector has done since 1990. The analysis compares revenue to that of surrounding communities, the state and similar-sized communities. Local leaders use this information to support and grow retail businesses.

For more information, see

American Flag in a town

Extension's Retail Trade Analysis program helped nearly 50 local businesses work together to strengthen Northfield, Minn.'s, retail potential.

"We learned to promote our existing assets, build sales incrementally and try new things," said Ross Currier, executive director of Northfield Downtown Development Corporation about their work with Extension. Northfield business owners reported a successful summer of sales despite a slow start due to a road construction project that made downtown parking a challenge. They credit several successful promotions, including giving gift bags of goodies and coupons to parents of local college students, conducting area-wide advertising campaigns, and featuring local restaurants at the first annual Taste of Northfield.

More than 33 Minnesota communities have benefited from Extension's Small Stores Success Strategies and Retail Trade Analysis programs. Local leaders and business owners across the state are working together to develop creative solutions to strengthen their retail trade potential.

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