Driftless Development Market Analysis offers data, recommendations for Prairie and surrounding area

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By Ted Pennekamp


Driftless Development Inc., the economic development organization for the greater Crawford County area, has recently completed its 2018 Market Analysis which has revealed some interesting data.

This project represents a community-led initiative whereby local business and community leaders were actively involved in the research and analysis. They participated as a “study team” that met regularly to review and interpret data gathered from the market analysis process. The market analysis was prepared with research assistance provided by the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

The purpose of the market analysis for Prairie du Chien and nearby communities in Allamakee, Clayton and Crawford counties, was to compile and interpret information useful in economic development efforts.

“The Driftless Development Board wanted to understand the market of goods and services bought and sold,” said Driftless Development Director Jim Bowman, who noted that the study focuses on data to:

•Support business retention and expansion;

•Attract new businesses and entrepreneurs;

•Guide improvements to the physical environment;

•Provide data to inform marketing and branding efforts; and

•Identify retail, restaurant and service business market opportunities.

“This study is a benchmark of what is happening supply and demand wise, mostly in the retail sector,” said Bowman.

Bowman said the market analysis focuses on three business districts in the city of Prairie du Chien. These three areas comprise the majority of retail, restaurant, and service businesses in the surrounding region.

In its executive summary, the market analysis states that there are approximately 700,000 square feet of street-level retail and restaurant space representing approximately 75 businesses in the three business districts. Not included are many professional and personal services ranging from banks and insurance to health care.

The districts include

•A traditional downtown, located on West and East Blackhawk Ave. (2,700 vehicles per day);

•A highway-oriented business area along S. Marquette Road (16,900 vehicles per day) and anchored by a Walmart Supercenter; and

•A highway-oriented business area along N. Marquette Road (7,200 vehicles per day) and anchored by a large Cabela’s store.

Other, smaller business districts, including downtown McGregor, are also considered in this analysis as they are within the Prairie du Chien Trade Area, as is the northern part of Crawford County.

Some market 

characteristics of the trade area include

•Population of city of Prairie du Chien: 5,700, stable 

•Population of trade area 26,200 

•Average household size: 2.31 (U.S.=2.59) 

•Households with children: 26.9% (U.S. =33.4%) 

•Home ownership: 57.5% (U.S. = 57.7%) 

•Seasonal recreational housing (14% of total) 

•Median household income: $50,100 (U.S. $56,100) 

•Per capita income: $26,000 (U.S. = $30,800) 

•Median age: 44 (U.S.= 37.1) 

•Race and ethnicity: white 97% (U.S. = 72.4%) 

•Bachelor’s degree or higher: 15.5% (U.S.= 31.1%)

•3,300 employees come to Prairie du Chien to work, but live elsewhere.

•Direct visitor spending in Crawford County is $43.8 million.

•Approximately 14% of all occupied housing units in the county are seasonal, recreational or occasional use, much higher than the state of Wisconsin.

Based on a survey 

specifically targeted to retail, restaurants and services users:

•Over 3/4 of respondents primarily shop in the survey area. 

•Prairie du Chien is where most respondents go for goods and services on a regular basis. 

•Seneca appears to serve an important role in the trade area for outlying rural residents. 

•Friendly customer service is the most important factor in the respondents’ choices of where to shop. 

•Safety, walk-ability and signage were three valued features of Prairie du Chien’s downtown. 

•Poor ratings regarding downtown were variety of shopping and restaurant options.

•Businesses most likely to attract respondents were Simply, Pickett Fence, Walmart and Aldi’s. 

•Recommendations for businesses include more variety, shopping options, and business hours. 

•Preferred restaurants would include family, public tavern, microbrewery. 

•Preferred retail include clothing, home goods and improvements, grocery, and specialty foods. 

Based on a survey not specifically targeted to retail, restaurants and service business:

•Business respondents to a separate survey represented longevity – a mean business age of 25. 

•The average number of full time people employed by the responding businesses is 5.9. 

•Respondents overwhelmingly represented business in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. 

•42% of respondents indicated they are home based businesses. 

•Respondents reported the greatest level of satisfaction with energy reliability. 

•34% of businesses are less than satisfied with their location, a possible area for improvement. 

•An overwhelming majority of respondents indicated being dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied with employee health care costs, followed by broadband speed. 

•The availability of skilled labor was also an area of general dissatisfaction.

Analysis of retail and restaurant demand and supply (gap analysis)

The gap analysis presents demand and supply in terms of square feet of space. These estimates are based on the U.S. Census and other sources obtained by the UW-Extension Center for Community and Economic Development.

Retail supply in square feet exceeds demand partly because it includes a large amount of space at the Walmart Supercenter and at the regional Cabela’s store.

The only retail categories that had higher demand compared to supply included health/drug and personal care stores, and clothing and accessories stores. These gaps might suggest that the trade area could support additional businesses within these categories.

The food and drink supply in square feet is less than demand suggesting that the trade area may be under served in the restaurant categories. These findings must be used with caution, however, as they are sensitive to many assumptions. For example, drinking place demand in Wisconsin is expected to be much higher per capita than most other states in the country.


In Brief


Business retention and expansion

1. Develop strategies for helping existing businesses (such as conducting business visits).

2. Develop strategies for broader community economic development efforts (such as learning opportunities to better serve area second homeowners).

Business attraction

1. Create a business recruitment team. 

2. Develop an inventory of open spaces and buildings that are available for occupancy and/or development. 

3. Develop a work plan for business attraction in Prairie du Chien and those of smaller nearby communities. 

4. Support and strengthen business entrepreneurship. 

5. Advertise business and other investment opportunities available in the area. 

6. Develop marketing materials to attract new businesses. 

7. Consider businesses operating out of homes, or current employees who want to start their own business.

Improving the physical environment

1. Business placement recommendations (for downtown, in particular) 

2. General environment considerations (such as streetscaping) 

3. Revisit the 2005 Downtown Development Master Plan for the city of Prairie du Chien prepared by Vandewalle and Associates

Marketing strategies

1. Establish marketing programs that respond to the shift in consumer behaviors, such as the deliberate consumer (post Great Recession).

2. Establish or review a unique brand for the downtown business district. Utilize a marketing expert to more fully understand what is required to achieve a positive business district image.

3. Conduct additional analysis of survey data focused on the smaller communities in the trade area

4. Recognize that Seneca serves another important role as the retail stop for many who live in the extended trade area.

The above is only a sample of the recommendations. The full report on the Driftless Development website provides more depth and rationale for each.

Market opportunities

The following example opportunities were identified by the study team based on demand and supply estimations, consumer preferences, peer communities and demographic data.

Retail opportunities

• office supplies 

• family clothing 

• men’s clothing 

• women’s clothing such as a boutique

• used clothing 

• grocery store, possibly organics and farm to table 

• specialty food stores, including co-ops 

• home goods



• family restaurant, full- service or limited service

• pub/microbrewery 

• ethnic restaurants 

• farm to table and other unique concepts



• personal services such as hair cutting, catering and cleaning. 

• professional services including legal or financial, that offer customized, knowledge- based services to clients

• recreational rentals 

• new hotels and rooms that are chain affiliated but unique to the community (upscale boutique)

• function/wedding venue 

• repair services 

•services for commuters, such as a car wash.

“This market analysis is a guide for an overall economic development plan,” said Jim Bowman. “It can also be used to measure success over time.”

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