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Morning Sun
  • City hears retail survey report

  • There’s no secret about the issue of people, both community members and Pittsburg State students alike, leaving Pittsburg for places like Joplin or Kansas City for food, entertainment, or other shopping.

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  • There’s no secret about the issue of people, both community members and Pittsburg State students alike, leaving Pittsburg for places like Joplin or Kansas City for food, entertainment, or other shopping.
    But while it’s no secret, during Tuesday night’s Pittsburg City Commission meeting, the city got numbers to back up those beliefs thanks to the results of a survey performed by the Pittsburg State MBA Association.
    Sonya Bhakta led a nine-person team that began investigating retail habits of students and non-students starting in July 2012, and largely finishing its work in February.
    The group surveyed more than 1,075 people to try to determine the answers to two primary questions: Why Pittsburg citizens are leaving town for retail purchases and what can be done to decrease that frequency.
    In the category of clothing and footwear, the survey results showed that people were purchasing outside of Pittsburg largely because of “a lack of product offerings,” a common theme throughout the survey.
    When asked which specific stores were on the wish list for Pittsburg, respondents put a priority on shoe stores, and then to a lesser extent Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Academy, American Eagle and more.
    Dining was a similar issue, with American cuisine being at the top of the menu for those eating elsewhere, with Italian not far behind. Close to 33 percent were “very dissatisfied” with the private dining options in Pittsburg for a date or business meeting.
    Ultimately, respondents were also asked about specific brands, and more than 160 mentioned Chipotle by name. Olive Garden was next, with about 115 requests. IHOP also had about 65 votes, with Buffalo Wild Wings, Chick-Fil-A, Red Lobster, Panera, and Denny’s rounding out the desired brands.
    Finally came the issue of entertainment. Joplin and Kansas City were again the top locations for traveling, with movies, concerts and sporting events being the primary drivers.
    “Entertainment in a small town is always a battle. You don’t necessarily need a dedicated business like Chuck E. Cheese or Incredible Pizza,” said Caleb Smith, copresenting the results with Bhakta. “But we do have lots of small businesses integrating entertainment.”
    Smith gave an example of live music in a local restaurant to further that point.
    The survey also included housing results, with several comments complaining about the state or appearance of property, and others having issues with landlords or law enforcement responsiveness.
    Ultimately, Bhakta and Smith said that while the survey shows areas of focus, the survey should not be seen as an indictment.
    “People want to be stimulated,” Bhakta said. “They want more choices. They can’t be stimulated overnight. Use marketing to keep people coming back. Bring in entrepreneurial talent. A lack of variety is very vague. That means people can be very creative in how they tackle that problem.”
    Page 2 of 2 - “I would say we have the means and framework to fulfill needs, but we’ll have to take it forward,” Smith said. “I think we need to promote what we do have. A lot of stores may be unique, but they don’t know how to market themselves. Or if they don’t have something that’s unique, maybe that’s the focus they need to work on. It could be as simple as designing a website.”
    Commissioners will take this information and mull it over, now that they have the numbers to back up the beliefs.
    “I think it was pretty interesting,” said Commissioner Chuck Munsell. “Everything is involved in the survey. It’s pretty much what everyone is expecting, that what is happening is we’re losing revenue to Joplin through dining and shopping. It’s interesting.”
     

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