Main Street Iowa’s downtown assessment report last September estimated city of Bettendorf residents spend $540 million dollars annually on retail goods, but only $223 million dollars of that amount stays with Bettendorf retailers. The figures further calculate $315 million in sales “leak” out of community to be filled by non-Bettendorf businesses.
This $315 million retail gap suggests the right business mix in the downtown has the potential to attract significant Bettendorf consumer spending. The key issue downtown planners face is determining the best combination of businesses to draw potential customers, not only from the community, but the Quad City region, as well.
Here a second statistic comes into play. Mass Mutual Financial reports: “Senior women age 50 and older control net worth of $19 trillion and own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth.” Women across all demographic categories represent $20 trillion dollars in annual consumer spending and make 85% of all buying decisions
Taken together these statistics argue downtown Bettendorf has strong economic growth potential, if retail businesses located in the downtown corridor, address the buying interests of women, especially those 50 years of age and older.
Unfortunately, downtown Bettendorf largely fails to attract women to shop there and here is a reason why. Bridget Brennan, a writer on women’s shopping patterns, points out: “In virtually every society in the world, women have primary care-giving responsibilities for both children and the elderly (and often, just about everybody else in-between). In this primary care giving role, women find themselves buying on behalf of everyone else in their lives.” Women shop broadly for the whole family. They require products from a diverse selection of retail businesses which the downtown presently does not have.
In a recent survey of several dozen Bettendorf women on attitudes toward downtown shopping, Connie Maloney, a Bettendorf resident who worked in marketing, observed, “There’s nothing that attracts me down there on a regular basis.” She once checked out several downtown home remodeling-related businesses, but found the products neither cost competitive nor reflecting current styles. The women surveyed, like Maloney, generally do not shop downtown.
Maloney often shops in Chicago to buy goods her family needs. She believes the downtown ought to develop a unique identity, appeal to a broader demographic with more stylish goods and update its overall physical appearance, as Le Claire and Galena have already done.
Cindy Bondi, a Bettendorf realtor, also offers several suggestions for improving the downtown. She hopes to see a more eclectic selection of restaurants, including coffee shops and a deli, which also provide outdoor seating for groups to meet and socialize. She suggests creating a downtown plaza where adults can stroll or sit on benches and children play.
Group Services president, Renae Warren, attends events at the Waterfront Convention Center, but also believes the downtown looks tired. She encourages downtown business to update their facades for a fresh, new and inviting appearance.
Renae regularly visits the Davenport farmers’ markets on weekends and may make as many as five purchases costing more than sixty dollars. She would visit the Bettendorf farmer’s market, if scheduled more conveniently on a weekend with more vendors participating.
Downtown women business owners also have observations to share about downtown.
Joy Povich recently opened her Knit and Knot business on State Street across from K and K Hardware. Iowa Department of Transportation figures show almost 30,000 cars a day pass through the downtown on Route 67, but that hasn’t meant additional business for Joy. More traffic doesn’t mean more business.
Joy believes walkability to be an important issue. She says the narrow and crumbling downtown sidewalks located next to the busy road do not create an attractive appearance nor encourage walking. No one walks on the sidewalks. Safety is an issue.
A liquor store behind Joy’s building attracts panhandlers who discard liquor bottles in her parking lot and contribute to the perception that downtown is not particularly safe for women.
Joy’s concerns are reflected in an assessment made by Jim Thompson of Main Street Iowa: “Poor storefront merchandising, vacant buildings and lots, and the lack of pedestrian amenities and regular maintenance to the downtown streetscape all contribute to an image and perception that downtown Bettendorf is not a safe nor comfortable place to walk around nor compelling enough to visit.” The comments of women surveyed support this assessment.
Debbie Hereau, proprietor of Concept Bath on Grant Street, argues the downtown can develop identity by accenting its historical character and proximity to the river. She would like to see outlet stores located downtown. She favors more connectivity between businesses and the river front, as well, and likes the flower pots and banners installed downtown last year.
Leann Themas owns Tango Salon on State Street. She believes the downtown has a disconnected feel and is not walkable. She hopes to see complimentary businesses clustered together that allow for cross-promotion and browsing. A traffic slowing strategy for Route 67, she argues, will make the downtown more walkable and encourage potential customers to check out downtown businesses.
The downtown survey of women business owners and customers indicates they have a unique, constructive and thoughtful perspective on what needs to be done to make the downtown retail environment more economically viable. The revitalization of downtown Bettendorf depends on how much downtown planners listen to their concerns and act on their suggestions.