In this section we’re dealing with some fairly tedious demographic comparisons. If statistics aren’t your cup of  Organic Ginger Pear White Tea, you may want to skip this part and take a nap instead. Go ahead, we won’t judge.

Over the years there have been sporadic rumors that developers in Urbana, Champaign, or Savoy have attempted to bring Trader Joe’s here. The recurring reason given for TJ’s disinterest has been that Champaign-Urbana is too small a community. Our demographics are said to be wrong for Trader Joe’s (see “Retail: It’s Alive!” last paragraph). Some have even claimed being a University town hurts us. The student segment, while large, also turns over every four or so years. This has led to an idea that Trader Joe’s considers our town too transient to support a TJ’s store.

Until recently, it seemed that these reasons might be true. A halfway interesting blog raised this issue in a discussion about the Downtown Urbana restoration. The statistics that were compared then did appear to indicate that Trader Joe’s mainly looks to larger overall markets for their new stores. However, at the dawn of this Trader Joe’s 4 C-U movement things seem to have changed. Namely, one location: State College, Pennsylvania.

State College is also a college town to a Big-10 institution. Obviously, this means they have a large transient (student) population, extremely similar to the student population in Champaign-Urbana. Here is a comparison of the numbers:

Student population at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: 31,932 undergrads; 10,673 graduate students

Student population at Penn State at State College: 38,954 undergrads; 6,240 graduate students

After doing some research on the demographics of the town of State College, we feel the opening of the store there is concrete evidence that Trader Joe’s is ready to come to Central Illinois. Here is a brief summary of some demographic statistics from the 2010 census for State College borough and Centre County:

State College Borough
Population: 42,034
Change (2000-2010): 9.4%
Median Income: $23,513

Centre County, PA
Population: 153,990
Change (2000-2010): 13.49%
Households: 54,971
No. of persons per household: 2.41

Median Income: $47,061
Percent below poverty level: 18.5%
Retail Sales, 2007 ($1000): 1,604,290
Retail Sales per Capita: $11,134

Now, let’s compare this with the 2010 census information for Champaign, Urbana, and Champaign County:

Population: 81,055
Change (2000-2010): 20%
Median Income: $40,116

Population: 41,250
Change (2000-2010): 13.3%
Median Income: $34,951

Champaign County
Population: 201,081
Change (2000-2010): 11.9%
Households: 77,851
No. of persons per household: 2.32

Median Income: $45,262
Percent below poverty level: 20.5%
Retail Sales, 2007 ($1000): 2,347,059
Retail Sales per Capita, 2007: $12,163

We can see from the demographic numbers that C-U is very similar to State College.

Some C-U TJ’s skeptics (whom we affectionately call “Naysayers” at the TJ’s 4 C-U headquarters) might say that the State College store is an anomaly, or that Trader Joe’s is only willing to open in smaller markets in states currently without any Trader Joe’s stores (per their supposed business plan to have at least one store in every state before expanding to different demographic locations). However, we believe the opening of the State College store is tangible proof that bringing a Trader Joe’s here in the near future is not only possible, but plausible.

Over the next several months, Trader Joe’s will see the success of their store in State College. This will lend an incalculable measure of validity to our requests for a Trader Joe’s in C-U. The timing is perfect; their State College store is opening soon, and we are gaining momentum in our movement here in Champaign. By the time TJ’s sees the profitability of a store in a community like ours, we will be sending them all of our materials. Our arguments will be supplemented by the hard numbers from their State College store.

Method: I am not a statistician. I chose a few of the more pertinent demographic statistics from the 2010 U.S. Census. But you can peruse more demographic data to your heart’s content here. If you discover new, interesting insights while reading the numbers, please let me know in the comment section.

2 responses »

  1. There’s also Corvallis, OR, which has 54,000 people, a median household income of $35,437, and 21,000 undergrads and 4,000 grad students at Oregon State. I think their TJ’s opened last year.

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