Montrose, CO – Over 2,000 Montrose area residents gave critical feedback in the city’s Montrose Lifestyle Enhancement Survey this summer, a large increase over a similar survey conducted in 2009. Among the most notable trends in the survey’s data is an increase in the percentage of respondents to seek big-ticket household items and medical services outside Montrose.
The recent results were presented to the City Council during their regular meeting Tuesday evening.
Household incomes of the survey respondents tracked closely with the 2009 survey, with the only downward shift (4%) occurring in households making less than $25,000 annually. The number of household in all other income levels increased slightly, suggesting an overall rise in the personal income within the survey region, according to Marcus Catlin, the city's intern and conductor of the survey.
One of the key elements of the survey was to identify areas where retail sales are being lost to other communities such as Grand Junction. The percentage of respondents purchasing furniture, large appliances and groceries in Grand Junction increased over the 2009 survey, whereas improvement was noted in the percentage of respondents purchasing apparel in Montrose.
More personal income could translate into more disposable wealth for things like travel, which could explain why respondents are purchasing more of some items in Grand Junction.
Furniture purchases in Grand Junction are up 69-percent, according to survey results. Traveling to Grand Junction for large appliances, groceries, and home improvement supplies are all up nearly 60-percent.
Catlin, who has spent weeks pouring through survey data, also reported that more income may allow people to travel for entertainment and medical services in Grand Junction. Some respondents in the 2009 survey said "cost of fuel" was a factor in their decision to shop in Montrose.
Non-retail interests attracting respondents to purchase goods in other communities was another highlight of the survey report. The percentage of respondents exiting Montrose to visit restaurants has declined, while the percentage of those looking elsewhere for medical services and entertainment increased.
Travel to Grand Junction for medical services is up 55-percent and entertainment was found to be at an increase of 49-percent. Travel outside for restaurants is down 78-percent, according to the survey.
Surveys were mailed to residents via utility bills in late June, followed by a social media campaign in early July. The survey was open for seven weeks during which time the city partnered with several local organizations to attract more residents to give feedback. All of the city's utility customers received a survey with their June statement. Of those 6,500 paper copies, approximately 620 were returned. Approximately 250 residents claimed $5 in Montrose Bucks, which was offered by the city as an incentive to get residents to respond to the survey. Surveys were also conducted in person throughout the city.
The majority of surveys collected were completed online.
This year the city partnered with the Montrose Recreation District, Montrose Memorial Hospital, Montrose County School District, Delta-Montrose Electric Association, Center for Mental Health, Community Options, and Mayfly Outdoors to reach even more people.
Overall, from the 2008 responses in this summer's survey, 1,403 came from city residents, 456 from households in Montrose County, 49 from Delta County, 47 from Ouray County, 9 from San Miguel County and 44 from respondents living outside the region.
Just under 21 percent of respondents were "more inclined" to shop in Montrose than they were a year ago, a result offset by 17 percent who were "less inclined”. When surveyed about changes that "would make you choose to shop in Montrose more often," the clear majority (58%) identified "more options" as their answer, followed by entertainment and longer hours of operation as areas for improvement.
"The nice thing about shopping in a bigger area is options, as far as shops, dining choices and a better variety of entertainment to pick from. Montrose has not as much variety, so many stores and restaurants in this area offer the same things, very little variety at all," one respondent said.
“In terms of developing business in Montrose, this survey gives us teeth. We can now take this information to prospects as fact, not just something we believe to be true. Finally, this survey shows us the areas where money is leaking into other communities. It (the survey) gives us a tactical way to address the leakage and ultimately capture the sales tax lost,” Catlin said.
Of the 2018 respondents, 59-percent, or 1,190 reported they had lived in the Montrose area for over the past 11 years or more. The second highest group in this group was 434 or 22-percent who reported they have lived in Montrose between one to five years.
Interestingly from the survey's 913 written responses the word "love" is mentioned 62 times.
"I love it here in Montrose," one resident wrote, for example.
A tale of two economies
In both the current and 2009 surveys, respondents were allowed to write direct feedback on questions related to spending habits. In 2009, when the Great Recession reached Montrose, over half of the 75 written responses included terms like "bad economy" "recession" "lack of money" and "laid off" as reasons for monthly budget tightening.
Most noticeable from that time period is the fall in taxable retail sales in Montrose from $444 million to $405 million from 2008 to 2009. The decrease of $40 million was a nine-percent drop and marked the beginning of a trend that would continue until 2012 when sales figured began to rebound. The city didn't return to 2008 sales activity until 2015 when taxable retail sales were recorded at $453 million.
The 2009 survey, conducted by the Montrose Area Merchants Association under their Retail Sales Enhancement partnership with the city, received 643 valid responses and targeted the city and surrounding county population. The survey was conducted by RRC Associates of Boulder and was intended to "ascertain shopping habits and opinions" of surrounding communities including Delta, Ridgway, Norwood, Telluride, and Gunnison about shopping opportunities in Montrose.
In 2009 Wal-Mart, Target and JC Penny were listed as the top three most favored stores in town. At the time Target and JC Penney had just completed construction. Beall's, Hastings and Sports Authority were also listed, but have since closed. In addition, other long-term Montrose businesses like Browns Shoes, Hallmark and Jeans Westerner have also closed since the last survey.
Although the 2018 data presented to council Tuesday is preliminary, the city is working on completing more comprehensive analysis of the 2018 data, which will be released when it becomes available.
For more city news visit: CityOfMontrose.org.