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Student group conducts retail study

December 13, 2012 12:00AM

Strengthening the retail industry in Pittsburg is the objective of a project being conducted by a group of Pittsburg State University graduate students.

PSU’s MBA Association completed a survey of 1,160 PSU students and community members During the fall 2012 semester in an attempt to pinpoint the retail needs and desires of local residents.

“What we’re trying to do is figure out what needs to be done to keep local dollars here,” Sonya Bhakta, MBA Association president and the project’s lead investigator, said. “We want to know what the people of this community want and need so that they don’t always to go Joplin or Kansas City to shop.”

The project is being conducted in conjunction with the City of Pittsburg and the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve been talking a lot about going straight to students in our community and asking what we’re missing,” Blake Benson, Chamber president, said. “We want to know what type of items they are leaving the community to buy. As it turns out, the MBA Association was talking about the same thing.”

Benson and other city officials contacted Bhakta to gauge the MBA Association’s interest in conducting the survey. Bhakta said the group was more than excited to participate.

“This is not only good for the community,” she said, “but it’s also a great opportunity for our students. It gives us a chance to practice what we’ve learned and to gain real-world experience.”

Bhakta said the group recently conducted the final surveys and will spend the next two weeks gathering data and analyzing the findings.

“Our goal is to hold a community presentation sometime to January to announce and discuss what we’ve found,” she said.

Preliminary findings, she said, indicate that new businesses aren’t necessarily what local residents desire. Rather, it is the improvement of existing companies they seek.

“Pittsburg has a lot of potential for its existing businesses to reinvent themselves a little,” Bhakta said. “We’re hopeful that our findings will help the businesses here understand what that means.”

Benson said he hopes the survey results will help strengthen the area’s retail industry.

“I don’t know if we’re going to be able to bring in a lot of new businesses,” he said, “but I do think this can help strengthen our existing businesses, which could lead to more options when it comes to groceries, clothing or shoes.”

The MBA Association conducted a paper survey in PSU classrooms and at area businesses.

“The level of cooperation we received was amazing,” Bhakta said. “To ensure a high response rate, we asked the teachers and business officials to let us wait while the students and employees completed the surveys. We’re very grateful for their patience and cooperation.”

The PSU students on the survey team are Bhakta, Yu-Hsuan Chen, Lacie Cottrell, Digamber Eslampure, Vanessa Hemos, Matthew Johnson, Erica Schilling, Caleb Smith and Lauren Zerr.

©2012 Pittsburg State University