NEW ULM - A survey of New Ulm's retail shopping practices and preferences should provide useful information to local retailers, and perhaps help bring more retailers to the city, according to a presentation at the New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce's Hot Topics breakfast Friday.
The New Ulm Retail Development Corporation conducted the survey over the summer, mailing out surveys to 2,037 people living in New Ulm or in surrounding communities.
With a 32 percent response, the survey has a four percent plus or minus margin of error.
Barb Stirling, New Ulm's Retail Economic Development Director, and Anne Makepeace, a member of the NURDC board, presented some of the findings at the breakfast, and urged retailers to look at the full report to glean information that could be helpful.
Among the findings, said Stirling, was the fact that not as many people go to shop in Mankato each weekend as thought, and that there is a "vast number" of people who do try to do most of their shopping in New Ulm.
Grocery shopping was a big draw for most respondents. About 60 percent of New Ulm respondents shopped for groceries more than once a week, while a third of those living near New Ulm came one or more times a week. Even among those living farther from New Ulm, 25 percent reported coming to shop for groceries at least once a week.
Non-grocery shopping habits were also strong. Thirty-eight percent of those living in New Ulm and 33 percent of those living near New Ulm shopped once a week for non-grocery items, according to the survey.
The survey showed half the residents in New Ulm eat out once a week, while those who live farther out came to New Ulm to eat twice a month or less.
Mankato, as expected, was the most likely city outside of New Ulm to draw shoppers. Sixty-eight percent of the New Ulm respondents said they traveled to Mankato once a month or more to shop, while 58 percent of non-residents shopped in Mankato at least once a month.
One interesting finding, said Stirling, was that online shopping was very popular, with more people shopping online than in any other city, except for Mankato.
The reasons people gave for shopping in New Ulm included convenience and closeness. Wal-Mart (with 91 mentions) and Target (81 mentions) were most frequently mentioned as stores that draw shoppers to New Ulm.
People also liked the prices, the friendly clerks, less traffic and the city itself as reasons to shop here.
The most frequently mentioned reason for shopping in Mankato was bigger selection of merchandise and variety of stores.
Asked what stores they would like to see more of in downtown New Ulm, respondents' most popular answers were women's clothing, men's clothing, women's shoes, men's shoes, family clothing, and hobby and art supplies.
"What people are looking for and what determines where they shop may be familiar" said the report's conclusion. "They want a good selection at a convenient location. Price and quality appear to be less important, although certainly not unimportant..."
"There continues to be a sense on the part of shoppers, both residents of New Ulm and residents of communities near New Ulm that 'going local' is a good choice," the report said.