An Iowa State University study of retail sales in the state shows a decline in the last seven years. Economist Meghan O’Brien says their report gives a better picture of sales. Adjusted for inflation, sales have declined 2.7 percent since 2000. She says without the adjustment for inflation, retail sales look like they are up 15 percent.
O’Brien, who works for ISU’s Regional Capacity Analysis Program, says rural areas of Iowa saw the biggest decline as people move and the population ages in rural areas. O’Brien says that and other changes in the economy have accelerated the decline in rural areas.
O’Brien says it’s not just the rural areas that have seen a retail sales decline, as Des Moines has also seen a decline. She says suburban areas have seen an increase in sales. O’Brien says the ancillary cities to the metro cities have seen the increase. For example, Altoona has seen a nearly 200 percent increase, and other cities like Grimes and Ankeny, the "commuter towns" have had increases.
O’Brien says rural areas are going to have to adjust the way they do business. She says it’s probably going to take a change in thinking, where small towns are going to have to pool services instead of trying to maintain a retail store front in one town. O’Brien says if small towns have a retailer that has products that are marketable, they have to find a way to get their goods to retail centers where they can be sold.
The complete report can be found on the ReCAP website .