Iowa retail sales show overall improvement

Elizabeth Holmgren

Liesl Eathington, assistant scientist in the ISU economic department, said after years spent struggling through a recession, the state of Iowa has finally started to take a positive turn.

“Overall, the average retail sales per person slightly grew about 0.6 percent in the last fiscal year,” Eathington said.

Although 0.6 percent may seem like an unconvincing statistic, Eathington assures it is worth noting.

“It’s small but encouraging because of the prior significant decline in per capita sales due to the recession,” Eathington said. “Finally, it looks like things are stating to recover in the state.”

Eathington’s findings were part of an annual project conducted by Iowa State University. Each year, data that has been submitted by Iowa businesses is collected from the Iowa Department of Revenue.

Part of Eathington’s job is to take the collected data and produce individual reports for counties and cities. These reports show the individual regions of Iowa what their trends in retail sales were in the past fiscal year.

“This information is useful for the communities because it gives a general picture of how local economies are doing,” Eathington said.

The data provided by the annual reports can be used by individual business owners who are looking to expand. The data is also used by community local officials to identify areas of strength and weaknesses in their retail sectors.

Peter Orazem, university professor of economics and a current member of the Ames City Council, addressed the unfavorable retail sales and options here in Ames.

“The average citizen in Ames would appreciate having more retail options in the community, but Ames has not been able to retain retail sales. Retail is a smaller fraction of our employment base and overall community as a result of past policies,” Orazem said.

Despite the shaky retail trends in Ames, Eathington’s reports help to provide Orazem with hope for the future.

“I am hoping Ames will be able to track a share of the improving economic base in the city,” Orazem said.

Iowa State has been conducting this collection of data for decades now. The work is usually passed down through the years from person to person.

Eathington inherited the position because of her interest in studying communities and the economy and the changes they experience. She also had experience with working with large databases.

Eathington expressed the apparent reliance of these reports by the people of Iowa.

“I will continue to collect this data every year because a lot of people rely on these reports. They come to expect them,” Eathington said.