Flagstaff Gaining Strength as Shopping Hub
When locals heard Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage was moving into the historic armory building on Milton Road and Clay Avenue, many wondered if the cow artwork would be painted over. Now that the grocer is open for business, fans of the giant bovine are pleased that it remains, overlooking the city’s busy thoroughfare.
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage chose this latest store location after careful research, said Nancy Flynn, the company’s director of marketing. “Flagstaff is a maturing city abundant with savvy and knowledgeable shoppers that are aware [of] and thoughtful about their health and wellness.” She also described locals as being careful about where they spend their time and dollars.
When the full service health food company was evaluating Flagstaff as a potential store site, they poured over market data. One of their resources was Buxton, a customer analytics company that can pinpoint incomes, product preferences and consumer behaviors. When Buxton was joined by credit reporting company Experian a few years ago, the collaboration produced an even more exacting resource, allowing them to track specific purchasing preferences.
John Stigmon is well versed on the power of Buxton and what it reveals about the region’s buying power. The vice president of the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECoNA) enjoys sharing the information and dispelling Flagstaff’s reputation as “Poverty with a View.”
Before joining ECoNA, Stigmon was Flagstaff’s economic development director. He says leaders’ quest to better understand Northern Arizona’s retail environment began in 2010. “The city got a consultant and measured off a huge trade area from Sedona to the Utah border from Ganado to Seligman.” The consultant compared estimates on consumer spending with actual sales tax figures. The study showed people from outside Flagstaff spent about $400 million in the city each year. “And all of a sudden, it dawned on us that we are more of a shopping hub than we ever realized,” said Stigmon.
The next information-gathering step involved Buxton, which offered a strategic household analysis of the greater Flagstaff area from Kachina Village to Doney Park. It found nearly 18,000 households with tenure of at least a year, 4,800 second homes, and 14,660 people who qualified as students by having a permanent address in another city.
The average incomes of these groups surprised Stigmon and many others who looked at the report. It turns out Flagstaff is more affluent than many people give it credit for. The category with the highest number of residents is classified by Buxton as B03. “These are highly educated baby boomer families with upscale incomes and luxury homes,” explained Stigmon. “They are conservative investors and like functional clothes over designer labels.”
Flagstaff’s second highest category is A06, earning six-figure plus incomes: nearly 12 percent of the population falls into this group, a rate six times higher than the national average. These mostly middle-aged people drive SUVs or minivans and like to bike, jog and travel.
As a university town, there is a high number of students who make up the transient J04 group, followed by C02, largely comprised of people under 35 earning above-average incomes.
These statistics are attractive to retailers. But perhaps even more impressive is Buxton’s real-time consumer propensity report, which details exactly which items people within a certain radius are likely to purchase.
The City of Flagstaff’s economic vitality director Stacey Button is especially impressed with the economic tool. “Buxton will help tremendously with existing retailers who want to improve the bottom line and their offerings to the community.” While Button’s focus is helping established businesses, she acknowledges that the data could bring new retailers to the region.
A question she and others in her department hear frequently is, “When will we get a Trader Joe’s?” Button says her staff continues working and communicating with representatives of retailers, including Trader Joe’s. That company’s spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki tells Flagstaff Business News that the city is not a part of their two-year plan, but that plan could change.
In the meantime, city staff and ECoNA are standing by, ready to assist new and existing businesses and companies, armed with accurate and compelling data to help Flagstaff maintain and enhance its role as Northern Arizona’s shopping hub. FBN
For more information on utilizing Buxton, contact the City of Flagstaff’s John Saltonstall at email@example.com.
The City of Flagstaff’s new economic development manager is Sean Ahern. He will be working with existing businesses and spending time attracting new retailers, clean tech, biosciences and manufacturing. Before joining the city, Ahern worked as director of business development for Arizona Sun Corridor. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graphic 1: Flagstaff’s Established Households Composition, affluent to low income, L-R
Graphic 2: U.S. Established Households Composition, affluent to low income, L-R