Business

Marion residents more comfortable eating outdoors, shopping sidewalk sales

Marion coronavirus economic recovery task force releases consumer confidence survey results

The storefront for Uptown Snug and Uptown Coffee is seen in Marion on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
The storefront for Uptown Snug and Uptown Coffee is seen in Marion on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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MARION — Half of Marion residents would feel very uncomfortable eating indoors at a restaurant or going to the gym, while a quarter would feel very uncomfortable going to a retail store, according to a recent survey conducted by the Marion COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force.

A 21-question consumer confidence survey taken May 15-27 collected responses from 353 Marion residents to gather information about the needs and expectations as coronavirus restrictions are lifted in Iowa.

“I think the information that came out on the survey is a valuable to the business community because it tells them the behaviors their customers want to see. Customers want to see people wearing masks, cleaning happening and social distancing,” Marion Chamber President Jill Ackerman said.

The task force was organized by Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly in April, with the goal of creating a strong economy as residents learn to adjust changes brought on by the coronavirus.

The task force consists of 14 members representing the city of Marion, the Marion Chamber of Commerce, the Marion Economic Development Corporation, the business community and the religious community.

The task force will report to the Marion City Council on ideas, strategies and policy recommendations.

While many respondents noted that COVID-19 affected their buying behaviors, 58 percent anticipate a return to normal buying behaviors in the next five months.

Although spending on items such as clothing, grooming and fitness gear has decreased, survey respondents report spending more money than usual on groceries, takeout and home improvement projects.

More residents are comfortable shopping for groceries and essentials, and less comfortable shopping for non-essential retail items.

While many stores in Uptown Marion already put merchandise on the sidewalk during the summer, Ackerman said she could see an even bigger increase in sidewalk sales and many restaurants already have easements with the city of Marion to serve customers in the city’s right of way.

Even so, curbside pickup and deliveries are not going away just yet, and Ackerman said businesses are equipped to handle both in-house service and to-go.

“That’s going to continue to be a big part of business plans for people and making sure those types of services continue to drive sales throughout the summer,” Ackerman said. “We’re not going to open up the floodgates and people come pouring in. It’s going to be more of a gradual creeping back toward normal.”

The results of the survey are changing rapidly as people begin to feel more comfortable wearing masks and venturing out in public, Ackerman said.

To participate in future surveys, go to polco.us/MarionIA. Participants will be asked to provide their name, email address, and ZIP code to confirm residency. Privacy is guaranteed, according to the task force, and the email address will be used to send notification of additional surveys from the duty of Marion.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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