Our Voice: Buxton study gives roadmap for business

Farm Forum

Data gleaned from a consumer study of the Aberdeen area shows few surprises, but makes concrete many things area residents say every day.

We want more shopping options, and we have some strong opinions of what they could be.

A study conducted earlier this year by the Buxton Co. puts details and a fine point on our collective thoughts. It also gives ammunition to city and business leaders to attract and encourage the kinds of businesses area residents want.

Now that we have this information, we have to use it.

The $60,000 study — commissioned by the city of Aberdeen and other area groups — identifies areas of “leakage.” That is the goods and services Aberdeen lacks that residents go out of town to find.

Key leakage areas include:

Health and personal care stores.

Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores.

Clothing and clothing accessory stores.

How many times have you heard the lament, “We could really use a Walgreens or CVS”?

How many people bemoaned losing our one mainstream bookstore, Chapter One at Lakewood Mall?

How many times have you heard young professionals say there aren’t enough options for clothing?

Most of all, think of how people celebrated when Dunham’s Sporting Goods opened. That store type was identified as a leakage point for us, and it is something we needed.

So how can leaders act on this study?

It can be used to attract these kinds of stores and opportunities to Aberdeen. It tells companies that our region can support these businesses and, as a matter of fact, residents will drive some distance to fulfill those needs.

Watertown seemed to find success after its own Buxton study was conducted. City leaders there say they were able to attract restaurants such as Applebee’s and IHOP, as well as a Walgreens because of that data.

Leaders can encourage these businesses by identifying districts or better approving developments with markets in mind, such as apartments near Northern State’s campus with living upstairs, but first-floor retail geared to hobbies and music.

Shopping centers can use this data to fill some of these niches. It gives them enough information to actively go after certain types of businesses.

Local entrepreneurs interested in entering Aberdeen’s growing market will also gain some direction from these results. It might inspire someone toward a concept that could be successful here.

Established businesses and institutions that are growing with satellite stores and services might see some opportunity. A campus bookstore with a greater selection of books, magazines and comics? A pharmacy instead of a c-store? A public library with a wider range of media and games?

It’s all fascinating information, and we are sure there are many interested parties looking over the Buxton study in detail as we speak.

Things will really get good when we see this study put to good use in the city.

— American News editorial board