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Useful Statistics Can Provide Info for Local Retail Growth

Angie Cue, Community Development Director for Lamar

Angie Cue, Community Development Director for Lamar

A review of 1623 households within a 25 mile radius from Lamar indicates a number of residents have spent upwards of $150 on shoes for a child under one year of age. The same propensity applies for similar purchases for sweat suits, underwear, dresses and outerwear.  The same report shows that of 793 households, very few respondents purchased a ‘sporty’ foreign vehicle.  Another section shows that of 2,115 households, quite a few people purchased some form of lawn and garden power equipment in the past 12 months.

This is information provided to the City of Lamar from the Buxton group which analyzes buying habits and commodity and service needs in a community. Lamar recently hired them to conduct an in-depth survey of local wants, needs and purchases to determine which retail operations, if any, would be a suitable fit for Lamar for relocation or for local business development.  Once the information is complete, it will be distributed to potential franchise operations that are seeking the type of business climate that Lamar offers.  It will also be used by any local entrepreneurs who have a desire to develop their own business based on local demand.

Angie Cue, Community Development Manager for Lamar, presented a brief overview for the Lamar City Council during their Monday meeting, October 24th.  “This is a random sampling I put together for you out of 100 pages of initial information Buxton provided me recently,” she explained, adding that by the beginning of November, information gleaned from local resident’s buying habits would be available from March to the present and continue forward from that point.

Lamar Mayor, Roger Stagner, who has a good understanding of car sales, questioned one of the listed items, “What is this for a Daewoo?” he asked, referring to the very high skew on foreign car sales, “I don’t think I’ve ever even seen one of those around town,” the mayor replied. Cue said she would have to check on the accuracy of that high number, but a brief review of some of the listings presents some interesting trends for commodities such as pet food and pet supplies, number of motor oil changes in a community, service and repair at a gas station, tire purchases over the last 12 months or how often people purchase womens lingerie (less) versus pajamas (more).

“This information will also help retailers fill any gaps that local buyers may shop for out of our area,” she offered. There are nine demographic breakdowns including such basics as age, sex, housing and income as well as lifestyle traits, likes and dislikes for some goods, spending behavior and marketing preferences for workers and for households.  Healthcare and physician demand is also listed in the report, covering situations such as office visits to local doctors, how medical bills are paid such as Medicaid, Medicare, self-pay, insurance or worker’s compensation.  It also measures scheduled specialty physician visits, how often patients travel outside the area for medical care and for what types.  The breakdown also includes ‘green’ buying habits and preferences for recycled materials and how the population in the trade areas differs during work hours, so local businesses can cater to different types of workers from information on buying habits at different times of the day or night.

“We can analyze retail leakage and surplus buying,” Cue told the council. The leakage, the amount of purchases that occur outside the county in a given time, has been a concern to the city.  Administrator John Sutherland has mentioned numerous times that the community has to find a way to curtail an estimated $80 million that is spent outside Lamar and Prowers County each year.  Just a simple 3% sales tax on that sum alone would generate almost $2.5 million more in tax revenue for municipal projects, salaries and basic infrastructure maintenance.  The surplus figures indicates in what areas the community’s trade stores are capturing the local market plus attracting non-local shoppers.

The Buxton group can provide detail on how well the retail needs of the local residents are being met; uncovering unmet demand and possible opportunities; understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the local retail sector and measuring the difference between estimated and potential retail sales. Cue said she will continue to update the city council on the reports.

By Russ Baldwin

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