Practice what you preach: Utah's unique demographics create niche opportunities.

Author:Felix, Devin
Position:Business Trends - City overview
 
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Utah is known for many things, including top-notch ski slopes, stunning national parks, a thriving business climate and the 2002 Winter Olympics.

And, of course, Mormons.

Ever since Brigham Young led his followers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and declared it to be the place, Utah has been known for being populated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed 58 percent of the state identified as LDS. While that portion is less than in previous decades, no other state has such a high concentration of any single denomination, and certainly none as distinctive as Mormonism.

Academics who study demographics consider Utah and parts of Idaho and Arizona to be a distinct ethnic area, known as the Mormon cultural region, says Pam Perlich, senior research economist at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Utah. "The footprint of the Mormon culture region is just ubiquitous," Perlich says. "It articulates itself in so many spheres.'

One of those spheres is business. Many local entrepreneurs understand that Utah's religious demographics present opportunities that don't exist elsewhere. Here are a couple who have been able to capitalize on those opportunities:

Called to Serve, Called to Shop

At any moment, there are between 50,000 and 60,000 people working as full-time missionaries for the LDS Church around the world. Most of them are young men and women between ages 18 and 21, and most had to do a lot of shopping before they left.

New missionaries receive a list from LDS Church headquarters detailing exactly what they are expected to bring on their missions. The list consists largely of clothing, and locally owned clothing retailers such as Mr. Mac have catered to missionaries for decades. Even retailers based outside of the Intermountain West such as Macy's and Men's Wearhouse have been known to adapt in Utah to attract missionaries and their families.

But MissionaryMall takes the business of selling to missionaries to a different level. "Our brand is built and centered on one core philosophy: We help missionaries," says owner Jon Theobald. "The question everyone in the company can ask at any time while working is, 'Am I helping missionaries?"'

MissionaryMall operates three stores--two in Orem, including one for men and another for women, and one in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The store started in 1997 as an online-only store, but eventually...

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