Archive for Thursday, January 19, 2006

Shoppers leaving city for goods, study shows

Lawrence may be losing up to 40 percent of sales to merchants outside county

January 19, 2006


That giant sucking sound you hear might be all the dollars Lawrence residents are spending in Johnson County instead of at home.

A new study by St. Louis-based consulting firm Development Strategies Inc. indicates Lawrence residents may be making up to 40 percent of their total purchases outside the community.

"We've all known for a long time that we might have some leakage," City Commissioner Sue Hack said. "But I was surprised that we were that far behind."

The $20,000 study compared Lawrence's retail sales with 13 other Midwest cities - some much larger - that have universities and are considered the dominant population centers in their counties.

Lawrence ranked last - by a significant margin - in the amount of retail sales made versus the amount of sales that national averages suggest Lawrence retailers should be making.

Lawrence captured 59 percent of its expected buying income. That was well below the 130 percent seen in Columbia, Mo. Other than Lawrence, Lincoln, Neb., had the next lowest level at 80 percent.

Malena Garcia, Lawrence, looks at books Wednesday at The Toy Store, 936 Mass. A recent study found that Lawrence residents buy up to 40 percent of their goods outside of the city.

Malena Garcia, Lawrence, looks at books Wednesday at The Toy Store, 936 Mass. A recent study found that Lawrence residents buy up to 40 percent of their goods outside of the city.

"That's concerning," Hack said.

Officials question accuracy

Not all city commissioners, though, were convinced the report was accurate.

City Commissioner Mike Rundle said he believed the report's authors may have overestimated Lawrence's buying power by overlooking that wages in the city often lag behind statewide averages.

"I wonder if we're really losing sales, or if we just don't have the buying power that we should have as a community," Rundle said.

Bob Lewis, an author of the study, said his company used an estimate from the Survey of Buying Power, which is an annual study that retailers heavily rely upon to make projections.

The new retail report could be a politically important one because proponents of new retail development in the community can point to its findings. Lewis said he thought the data showed Lawrence had room for additional retail developments.

"What the data tells me is that you haven't overbuilt retail in Lawrence," Lewis said.

Lewis said the city's overall retail vacancy rate was 3.9 percent, well below the 6 percent to 8 percent range considered normal.

Downtown vacancies

But there was one big exception. The downtown area checked in with the highest vacancy rate in the city at 10.4 percent. People wary of new retail development may grasp onto that number because a long-standing fear has been that retail development on the fringes of the community will hurt downtown.

Revenue opportunity

Retail sales from 1994 to 2004 increased on average by about 3 percent per year, rising to $1.04 billion in 2004. But consultants from Development Strategies Inc. estimated that Lawrence's economic demographics suggested that sales could be about 40 percent higher if shoppers made all their purchases at home. The report's authors said that would be unlikely, given the city's proximity to the Kansas City area. But if sales were increased by 40 percent, that would equate to approximately $8.5 million in additional sales tax revenue each year that would be split between the city and county governments.

"That number has given me reason to be more cautious," Rundle said.

Lewis agreed downtown's vacancy rate was worth keeping an eye on.

"The downtown number is a bit higher than you would like to have it," Lewis said. "It is a little on the weak side."

But it may not be because of new retail developments in other parts of town. Lewis said it might be because new housing developments were becoming increasingly distant from downtown.

"Fewer and fewer new residents may think of downtown as a place to go," Lewis said.

Several shoppers and merchants in Lawrence said the study was easily believable.

"I know there are a lot of people who want to just go spend the day at the Oak Park Mall," said Mollie Qualseth, who said she made a point to shop in Lawrence. "I worry about mom-and-pop businesses."

Caroline Legler, a Lawrence resident and Kansas University student, said she could understand why many residents shopped out of town. She said she would like to have more developments like those along South Iowa Street that feature large national retailers.

But some downtown merchants said city commissioners needed to be careful opening up large new areas for retail development that would compete with downtown.

"We need to heighten people's awareness that if they don't support the shopping areas that we have, they will go away, downtown included," said Geri Riekhof, owner of The Bay Leaf in downtown.

Other shoppers, though, said the issue went well beyond people's shopping habits or preferences. Lawrence resident Neva Smiley said city commissioners should take a broad look at the city's economy.

"I would say if people are doing that much shopping out of town, it is because they are working out of town," Smiley said. "If I worked out of town, I might shop out of town, too."


Richard Heckler 12 years, 1 month ago

First I ditto even money. As I said Wednesday the big name retailers put in downsized stores for a reason...not enough retail dollars considering Topeka and KC/JOCO are just down the street.

Our oldest two still shop downtown at one of the brand name stores(not AF or Gap) downtown across from the Brewery,Brown's shoes, Sunflower Bike etc etc.

Hey Chad even money has an excellent point. Columbia is nowhere close to even one thriving metropolis. From my own observation Lincoln is not necessarily dying. Bo Harris has a pretty cool retail plan going on in Old East Lawrence which is close to downtown. Did three of our city commissioners forget?

As far as downtown's are concerned most major cities are spending tons of money rehabilitating their downtown's. I say Lawrence needs to focus on two areas.

Number one keep the shopping focus downtown. It's not the taxpayers obligation to insure local land speculators make bundles on their investment. Our job is to be sure our elected officials make practical and frugal decisions. Economic Impact Study is a tool to assist in making those decisions. Just to "think" a retail plan looks good is no longer good enough.

Number two focus should be putting a ton of energy into bringing high paying jobs to Lawrence, Kansas. This will keep shopping money in Lawrence and increase our revenue purse. As of now it's no secret Lawrence is a low wage community. 12,000- 15,000 people leave town daily to make a decent wage thus shop elsewhere and high gas prices will cut into their shopping budget.

High paying jobs not houses. Chamber of Commerce has some or better yet A LOT OF WORK TO DO.

Last there was not a lot of concrete data in this report:

Bob Lewis said this "What the data tells me is that you haven't overbuilt retail in Lawrence" Then he said "The downtown area checked in with the highest vacancy rate. in the city at 10.4 percent. The downtown number is a bit higher than you would like to have it," Lewis said. "It is a little on the weak side."

Nikki May 12 years, 1 month ago

I spend 95% of my money in Lawrence. We only go out of town for a special occasion.

KsTwister 12 years, 1 month ago

Let me get this right, we as taxpayers pay for your city commissioners study (0ne right after the other) and when the results are in -----The council members don't believe it? Hey, any besides me blistering mad yet? If you are not going to accept these studies whole heartedly then would you please put our tax dollars elsewhere and quit raising our property taxes,building roundabouts and behaving well......stupid.

average 12 years, 1 month ago

My money goes out of town, but it doesn't go to KC or Topeka. Books, music, sporting goods, general clothes, shoes, computer parts, specialty foods... all online. Perfect competition and far better selection that I can easily find, even if I'm looking in New Work City (for, say, computer parts).

Retailing, in the normal, "we keep a store heated, with bored employees, and $300k of very slow moving merchandise on the shelves"? How hasn't this died yet?

justtemp 12 years, 1 month ago

No one has mentioned the one reason that limits my shopping in downtown Lawrence: Since I work 9-5 and normally get home at 6, I can only shop during the weekend or for a very short time on Thursday evenings. Certainly for residents forced to work outside of Lawrence, limited shopping hours during the week can be inconvenient. Has any research been done on how the limited retail hours downtown may affect sales?

Am I the only one who believes this has a negative impact on downtown?

Richard Heckler 12 years, 1 month ago


You may be on to something. Most of downtown opens at 10 AM. Even at that there are hardly any shoppers around. Would noon to 8PM work? I don't know why any retail store opens before noon in Lawrence. The shoppers in this town sleep in. Grocery stores are perhaps one of the exceptions.

Have you shared your concerns with Downtown Lawrence Inc?

coach 12 years, 1 month ago

I shop out of town because I can save money. If go downtown and look at a pair of shoes I know I can go to the mall and get a way better price. I'm not against shopping here, but when it comes to my pocketbook I want to save money.

cass 12 years, 1 month ago

I love shopping downtown. However, with the limited hours that the stores are open, the only time I can make it is on the weekend. On the weekend, it can be quite a hassle to get downtown, and often I am deterred because I can never find a parking place. When I have little ones that are too big for a stroller, but to little to walk long distances I am more likely to take my business elsewhere.

mcoan 12 years, 1 month ago

"I shop out of town because I can save money. If go downtown and look at a pair of shoes I know I can go to the mall and get a way better price."

Yep. And if you shop at Walmart, you can save even more money. Heck, for that matter, if you could order your shoes direct from China, bypassing all those low-paid Walmart workers AND the downtown workers, you could REALLY save! I mean, saving money is all that matters, right? Even if it means half the country is unemploiyed?

"I'm not against shopping here, but when it comes to my pocketbook I want to save money."

Actually, you ARE against shopping here.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 1 month ago

Posted by Solomon

"Nor is it the taxpayers obligation to insure that downtown merchants make bundles on their investment."

This is also true. It is all about maintaining a strong revenue generation base to keep you and I from paying higher taxes and user fees. More is not necessarily better unless there are enough retail dollars to support additional retail space. Downsized big name stores tell me big corporations see limited retail dollars.

My point is that building just because someone wants to is not a good enough reason. If things do not work out revenue wise then local residents become the source to make up the loss.

Every type of new construction,even houses costs taxpayers money due to the many many city/county services that are required. The more outward growth of building that takes place the more staff, equipment,supplies, maintenace costs etc etc is required.

Lets say Lawrence creates another shopping district without creating higher paying jobs in Lawrence to keep commuters in town. We have more choices with which to spend our money but the actual number of retail dollars has not changed. Sales tax revenue will likely not increase.

However we have created additional demand for more city/county services which are as long as your arm. To meet the level of service people expect we need more staffing and/or contract work out. If high retail turnover is a problem and vacanies become a problem that does not stop the cost of running a city/county from increasing. High turnover and vacanies are a result of not enough business thus low revenue generation. Sooner or later you and I will be paying more taxes and user fees.

badger 12 years, 1 month ago

If Lawrence can support the stores people are leaving for, and provide enough of a market draw, then let them come.

Is there enough of that business leaving town that would stay here to merit those companies opening retail stores in Lawrence? I don't think so.

Is it worth taxpayer money to sweeten the deal enough to get those stores to open in a location where the market itself doesn't encourage it? I also don't think so.

The stores people are leaving town for know full well that they have their customers trained to brand loyalty, and that they'll drive eighty miles round trip to go to the mall or the Plaza to shop at the 'right' stores, so why would the companies risk the money opening up a store in Lawrence when Lawrence isn't big enough to support it yet and they'll get the business anyway?

Lawrence isn't a shopping mall town. Shopping malls are going the way of the dinosaur anyway. They're not building them any more, in favor of big-box clusters like the ones south of town.

If you absolutely cannot survive without being within ten miles of a Hot Topic, you either need to work on getting Lawrence to grow a little faster (in real ways, with profitable, stable industries, not more seven-fifty-an-hour retail jobs for college kids) or move.

Then again, I haven't spent a dime in Lawrence since New Year's Eve, and won't again for quite a while. However, we did drop about a hundred bucks on local business while we were there.

stbaker 12 years, 1 month ago

I agree with several posts, the operating hours for retail stores would better serve shoppers if they were open later, like 8 or 9pm, as the larger retailers are. I've lived in a couple of communities with downtown shopping areas, and you have to have competitive hours. And you're right, rarely do people shop before noon. Oh, and yeah, who has money left over after they pay for their mortgage (or rent) in Lawrence?

lunacydetector 12 years, 1 month ago

there is NOT enough retail in lawrence. it has been this way for at least 5 years. the downtown has high vacancies because the rents are overly inflated and the parking is nowhere (plus you have to pay to park). people don't want to walk a block for a meal or a pair of shoes.

the buying power in lawrence is here. lawrence has had $1 Billion in retail sales since 1998. that says a lot.

lawrence does not need more bauer farm type projects. that was the most hypocritical things the city could've done. if that is successful, expect downtown businesses to vacate.

let me get this straight again City of Lawrence, because i want to know the NOT build a wal-mart because it will hurt downtown...BUT build a downtown in a cornfield because it will HELP downtown?

kutwitch 12 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence Kansas has one of the worst job markets for a city of it's size in the entire midwest. I only know one or two people who work in Lawrence and make enough to live off of and everyone else drives to Topeka or KC. These people do not find work elsewhere because they want to but because they have to. These people love Lawrence with all their heart, if they didn't they sure as hell wouln't pay for the ridiculous propery value here, and yet the city repays it loyal citizens by spending it's money fighting walmart in court and building roundabouts at every possible intersection instead of urban planning and development. Of course there are those people who stay in Lawrence because it is the way it is. These people are holding onto the lie that Lawrence is still a small town, wake up it's not, and these people are becoming fewer by the year. It not even just about retail it's about attracting companies to town that provide real jobs. But the simple fact of the matter is that the people who run the city don't want to city to grow in anyway. Meanwhile the problems like traffic congestion and money leaving town grows worse. Lawrence is trying to build a dam to stop a flood that has already happened.

Linda Aikins 12 years, 1 month ago

I agree on the hours thing. I work in KC also and don't get home until 7:00. Doesn't leave much choice! But I do shop in Lawrence almost exclusively. I came from a town of 1000 where you had to support locally.

Consumer1, you are making good points. Did you get a good night's sleep for a change??? Or is someone else using your name?

tee hee

Kookamooka 12 years, 1 month ago

As much as we all LOVE downtown, it's difficult to shop there because the focus has shifted away from serving the needs of the customers to....look how cool I am. In defense of the merchants I will say this...if they aren't open on your their websites. It still keeps the money in Lawrence and instead of shipping, maybe you can pick it up or have the merchandise delivered? There isn't enough, "I've got to get the sale" mentality that would create a fabulous shopping experience. Personal shoppers, delivery, in shop specials, outreach and GREAT SALES!! It's sad to say but I can't gut overspending on items I know I can get for MUCH less in KC. I'll drive in and still save money. We have a large family and depend on COSTCO and Checkers(here).

dviper 12 years, 1 month ago

The city commissioners will ignore the information in this study, because it's not what they want to hear. This current city commission along with many others in the past does not want a mall to be built in Lawrence. They are simply blind to the fact that if downtown businesses or any business can not compete on a fair level playing field, they don't deserve to stay in business.

Several years ago a proposal to build a mall was rejected by the city commission and yet today we have more retail commercial space at 31st and Iowa than what the proposed mall would have been. Even this fact is amazing given all of the current and past city commissions actions to eliminate, restrict and downsize commerical development. The city commission and many people in Lawrence believe that 'the downtown area' is the unique character and feel of Lawrence, and thus want to protect it above all else, including discriminatory practices towards businesses not located in the downtown area.

Just one example of this is the Home Depot and surrounding site development. The city commissioners made Home Depot build a smaller store instead of the standard size store, and now Lawrence has the smallest Home Depot store in the country. The city commission also forced Home Depot to pay for city street improvements at 31st and Iowa that had nothing to do with the store. If Home Depot did not agree to pay for a significant portion of the street improvements the city commission was going to reject the development. Even two of the previous city commissioners stated that the street improvements at 31st and Iowa were long overdue and were needed regardless of Home Depot development. The city commission also made sure that the remaining retail commercial space was restricted in size, thus making it more difficult to attract businesses. If a business does locate here in a downsized store, they then have less product space, variety, and choice, which are key reasons why many people leave Lawrence to shop. These are just a few examples, there are many, many more.

What will it take to get a nice mall in Lawrence? Several things, but two very critical steps above all else. First, the businesses that want to locate here at a possible new mall must not be discriminated by the city of Lawrence. Second and more important is the voters in the city of Lawrence need to elect city commissioners that support a mall. This may never happen unless more people working outside of Lawrence that live here show up to vote. Many people that support a mall work outside of Lawrence in KC or Topeka and usually do not vote in the local elections. I know this is true for my immediate neighborhood.

miss_tigerus 12 years, 1 month ago

Oh boy, here we go again. Just something else for the downtown merchants to "blame the homeless" with. I can hear it now "We're losing 40% of our sales because of the Homeless"

But thats really not the case now is it.

Janet Lowther 12 years, 1 month ago

I think "Informed" nailed it: Lawrence looses a LOT of retail sales 'cause it's people are in Johnson county or Topeka already.

It is long past time that the leaders of Lawrence woke up and realize that it has not only become a bedroom community to Metro KC and Topeka, but has been for decades.

FORTY PERCENT of the City Commission commutes out of the county for their day jobs!

I've been on the lookout for a job in Lawrence for over twenty years. Such as I have seen have either paid so much less than the jobs I've had in KC & Topeka that I couldn't afford to take them or required a masters degree (sometimes a doctorate) for the same work I do with my lowly BGS.

Linda Endicott 12 years, 1 month ago

I don't know that the malls are doing so great anymore, either. I haven't been to The Great Mall in Olathe for about 4-5 years. I looked up their website, and there are only a handful of the stores I remember that are still there. Seems like they have an awful lot of turnover on their merchants.

On the plus side, though, all the stores and restaurants are open until 9 PM every day but Sunday. That seems to be a selling point to a lot of the posters here.

With so many people having 9-5 jobs, why are so many downtown businesses shooting themselves in the foot by closing so early?

As far as how good the shopping is in downtown Lawrence, it all depends on your point of view....I'm from Ottawa, and believe me, Lawrence is a shopping mecca compared to here!

I go shopping in downtown Lawrence every time I visit...maybe I should be shot for not keeping my dollars at home, huh? Yeah, the downtown stores are more expensive, but usually they have what I want, and you can find lots of unique items there that aren't anywhere else. As long as I don't shop there every day, I don't mind the extra expense.

You can say what you like about Wal-Mart, but around here it really stinks...we used to have other stores to choose from, with different inventory, and now we don't, thanks to Wal-Mart. We had the opportunity to get Hobby Lobby, Target, Venture, among others, here at one point. What stopped them from coming here? Wal-Mart...

Do I shop at Wal-Mart? You bet I do...there isn't anywhere else, unless I go out of town. But if I had other choices, I would never touch Wal-Mart. At least the people of Lawrence DO have other choices.

I don't go to Lawrence as often as I'd like, though...I'm afraid my poor old car just couldn't take it. So I usually put up with what they have to offer here, which isn't much, folks.

Be happy with what you've could be worse.

badger 12 years, 1 month ago

Mall proponents:

How many malls are built annually in this country?

How many were built annually ten years ago?

Twenty years ago?

See the trend? Malls are dying. They don't make sense. Why pay to heat, cool, and maintain a huge indoor space when the same stores would be perfectly happy in strip malls with big-box anchors? Use the space where the carousel/food court/maps/unused space would be for parking. Blue Ridge Mall in Kansas City is gone. The Ward Parkway Mall is going the same way. The Independence Center was saved only by massive commercial retail development around it. In Columbia, one of the two malls was torn down five or ten years ago. It's not just the Midwest; here in Austin, two malls have shut their doors in the last five years. The mall is a dinosaur and a dead breed.

Retail centers, shopping centers, they're making it and they make more sense than malls. For one thing, when the businesses fail because there's not enough business in Lawrence, it's less of an eyesore. Scattered empty stores across Lawrence a la Eddie Bauer (anything moved in there yet? I wonder why the Gap won't put in a gapkids or babygap if there's such a pressing need for it and so very many retail dollars in Lawrence...perhaps that need isn't really there?) would be bad, but a hulking behemoth of a mall, half-empty, would be even worse.

dlstrohm 12 years, 1 month ago

Protectionism of downtown only allows fledgling businesses with poor plans and product offerings to survive a few months longer than they would have otherwise. The simple fact is there are a lot of products that are unavailable downtown, or anywhere else in Lawrence. How many eccentric asian meals, hand-made candles, or retro shirts can people buy anyway? They're fun once in awhile, but if the stores don't offer the necessities then it makes perfect sense that the money will flow right out of town.

I want downtown to survive, but it will take intelligent marketing by a business-minded city council, not close-minded protectionists that waste taxpayer dollars with the same old "blame big business" arguments that have failed for decades. Big businesses survive because they offer what consumers want rather than what they think consumers should want, and this city council needs to wake up and see this too.

tir 12 years, 1 month ago

I don't shop in KC or Topeka anymore--most of my dollars stay here in Lawrence. However, I have a lot less money to spend these days, in large part due to increases in property taxes, utilities, and gasoline prices. And in order to make ends meet, I frequently buy used items rather than new ones. So even though I don't shop out of town, the amount I'm spending for new merchandise in Lawrence has decreased. The bucks are staying here in the community, though, and part of it is supporting local charities.

benm024 12 years, 1 month ago

Badger, that's perfect. Your not even a Kansas resident much less living in Lawrence. You sit back in your much bigger version of Lawrence (i.e. blue blip in a red sea), that has all the amenities you could ask for and preach that we should keep Lawrence in the dark ages. We 'po folk here could not possibly afford the kinds of retail we want. You will shop at billy bobs and like it! Wow, ever thought of a career in politics, I hear the right side of the isle is looking for more hypocrites like you.

Confrontation 12 years, 1 month ago

The cost of living in Lawrence is extreme. I am hoping to move elsewhere this year. The pay I receive for my job is going to increase at least 25% in the areas I am considering. Sadly, I will definitely miss Lawrence and I hope all those who can afford to live here really appreciate what they have. What I'll miss the most is KU basketball, regardless of their current season.

WalMart is the worst store in town!!! I love the low prices, but I hate the bad attitudes of the employees and most of the shoppers. Between kids kicking and screaming and employees trying to run you over with their carts, I just get too stressed out being in there. Does anyone say "excuse me" or "sorry" anymore? The employees and the little brats running around definitely don't. What is my alternative to these large stores? Is someone on Mass Street selling toilet paper, toothpaste, and other essentials?

badger 12 years, 1 month ago

benm024 -

Until this summer, I was a Lawrence resident. I was a dedicated local shopper, a regular at the Farmer's Market, and active in the local community.

However, there was something that wasn't in Lawrence that I wasn't willing to live far away from any more, so I relocated. Thus my advice that if it's so tremendously important to be close to certain things that aren't coming to Lawrence, you should relocate to where they are.

Did you just suggest that I become a Republican politician?

Now, that's GOT to be a first. I'm usually mistaken for a Liberal, not a conservative.


Bruce Bertsch 12 years, 1 month ago

For such a progressive and "liberal" community, I am stunned at how the "beggars" are seen to be such a danger. I have never in three years dodged a beggar. I ignore the homeless who ask for money, something I learned while working in NYC. For those who think the smoking ban hurts business, wake up and smell the clean air. Even NYC and the surrounding counties in NY have as strict a ban and the bars have found that business over the long term picks up. Oh yeah, one ancillary benefit...smoking has decreased by 11% as well.

Quite simply, Larryville loses business mainly to JoCo because so many people who live here, work there. I happen to work in Jackson Co. Mo. Even with the commute expense, its worth it. I have spent ZERO dollars on clothing in KCK, KCMO or JoCo. I do spend $$$ for food and gas. The gas is in KCMO, not Joco.

The fact that so many of the downtown buildings are historic in nature works to the disadvantage of getting more mainstream tennants. A little creative growth east and west of Mass would likely be a good thing as well. I do frequent the shopping district at 31st and Iowa but NEVER the Wal-Mart. Those who want a shopping mall need only look at the South Metcalf and Bannister Malls in JoCo and KCMO. They are empty.

shortstack 12 years, 1 month ago

urban outfitters is the most pretentious crap ever. blue heron, trying too hard. i understand the need to be like a hip, cool place like seattle, or portland, but come on, whats with all the attitude at those places? you get that at most of the stores downtown. i say bring in the big retailers! gimme an illuminations! gimme an express! gimme a pottery barn! i'd shop the hell out of those places if they were here and you know what? you would too. so quit with the pretention because guess what, you still live in a small town in KANSAS, and its not that cool.

Linda Aikins 12 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like somebody's credit cards are maxed out....

Jamesaust 12 years, 1 month ago

Well, its a bit difficult for people to determine for themselves if this report is questionable since the LJW hasn't posted anything online. (The report does "belong" to City, doesn't it?)

That said, there seems to be an editing issue with this article. I'm not sure what the journalist wrote here but perhaps the editor has chopped some critical information out.

If you are like me, you probably breezed right over the little box titled "Revenue Opportunity." It notes that the 40% shortfall number comes from an assumption that ALL purchases would be made in Lawrence (a point acknowledged in the article) but also that the study's authors disbelieve that such a capture of sales revenue COULD NOT happen given the proximity of Lawrence to KC (let alone Topeka). This point is not mentioned in the article.

As others have noted, proximity is a key distinction between comparison cities. Even Lincoln is 45 minutes or so away from Omaha.

As others allude to as well, a signficant quantity of Lawrence citizens work outside of the city. Probably far more than is true is any of these comparison cities. I believe there is an inescapable fact that people present for most of a day in another city for work might also be making purchases there. Not lowering the number of persons who commute elsewhere for work will doom any chance of increasing in-city sales revenues significantly.

Also, there is a question of whether the comparison cities are themselves comparable. "Dominant centers" covers a lot of territory. Lawrence may be the dominant city in Douglas County just as Lincoln may be the dominant city in Lancaster County. They may both be the homes of large universities. But I don't see why anyone would think that retail sales in a smaller population, near to much (much!) larger cities Lawrence would be a comparison to a larger population, farther from larger cities Lincoln.

Finally, are any of these other cities isolated by a TOLL road from access by people from other cities shopping in their town like Lawrence?

lunacydetector 12 years, 1 month ago

Here's a study suggestion: Compare sales taxes from other areas in town with the downtown. The downtown will be the loser.

Perhaps Lawrence should stop trying to pander to the downtown businesses. It is the most taxpayer subsidized business area in town. I wonder what a cost benefit analysis would say regarding marketing dollars spent/upkeep/weird artwork rented for display/street repairs/ multi-million $$ money losing parking garage/the bogus attendance to justify the new art center expense/the city renting in the defunct riverfront mall to keep it up/and the new city public library built only for the people of downtown by the entire population of lawrence. then there is the chamber of commerce who is located in the "heart of the money pit" subsidized by the taxpayers being run by bankers and lawyers (that in itself is scary!) advocating tax increases on businesses even advocating taxing certain areas where businesses are located (at least they did 2-3 years ago), except for our precious downtown.

yep, i'm beginning to think the city of lawrence should stop smoking our money. i thought smoking was illegal.

BunE 12 years, 1 month ago

I don't really care about this study too much, Lawrence has lots of sources of income for the city and goes out of its way to take it. I will say this. "A Nice Mall" Bah! Malls suck. With the exception of Oak Park, all of the Malls in Kansas City are dead or dying. THe Manhattan "Town Center" is in their DT and it blows.

Oh well.

I will say this, the Lawrence City leaders are completely out of touch.

hawkbygod 12 years, 1 month ago

Here is something I don't get, If you work in KC/JoCo, and prefer to shop in KC/JoCo, why do you live in Lawrence (Unless your spouse works here or Topeka). This is an honest question. If it weren't for Mass Street this city might as well be Shawnee or Merriam.

I live here because of Downtown. Although I live as far west as you can possibly live in Lawrence (Legends Trail Drive and Bob Billings Pkwy), I still love working, shopping and spending time in Downtown Lawrence.

On this forum it sometimes appears that people forget just how special this community is. I grew up in JoCo, and could just have easily lived and worked there. Yet, I love this community. Its not because of the strip centers at 6th and Wok or 23rd and Kasold. I love this city because of Downtown, and I think we need to do everything in our power to ensure that Downtown remains a strong and vibrant city center.

kutwitch 12 years, 1 month ago

Can someone give me one single example of a city of relative size and character that has managed to repel the advances of "big business" in favor of mom and pop stores and is thriving? By the way how many people buy their food at Dillions or Hyvee? Why don't I hear anyone bitching about the mom and pop grocery stores of old being run out of business? Why don't I hear people bitching about the crowds and rude workers at these stores? I have gone to both Dillions and Hyvee after midnight and had to wait more than 10 minutes in line. I have also been treated so rudely at Dillions by their staff, Mass Street Dillions I am talking about you, that I left my potential purchaces at the counter and walked out. Guess what, stores like Kroger and Hyvee are the Walmarts of the grocery industry but I hear no one bitching about them. How many grocery are there in this town now? It makes a lot of sense that a town that only really needs one Walmart needs at least 10 or 11 grocery stores. Food For Less, Checkers, Aldi's are all big chains. Lets all only shop downtown and only buy our food from the Merc and farmers market. Lawrence thy name is hypocricy

Spades 12 years, 1 month ago

This data is concrete, and if you don't think it is... look at downtown. You wonder why there is a 10% vacancy rate downtown? Because business owners do not want to put their shops downtown. They will not make as much money downtown as they would in another location. The parking is horrible (not to mention, most likely you have to pay to park), the hours do not agree with any regular working persons' schedule, most are specialty stores that you will only purchase from once in a while, inclement weather does not help the outside atmosphere where in a mall you would be inside the whole time... I mean, I love to walk Mass Street, but shopping downtown is a novelty. Some people hold onto the 'good old days' of mom and pop stores, and being a 'community.' This is a community. There is a need for mom and pop stores. But there are too many problems with downtown. I grew up in St. Charles Illinois, which had a thriving downtown, as well as an enormous mall on the other side of town. I went to college in Iowa City, Iowa, which had a thriving downtown, and a mall on the other side. The two can coexist, if the 'elder' people running this town would open their eyes. Step toward the light, step toward the future. As for me, I'll continue to spend the majority of my money elsewhere. And while we're at it... how come housing costs so much in Lawrence?

Spades 12 years, 1 month ago

And here's another thought... my girlfriend works at the Oak Park Mall simply because she can't find a retail job in Lawrence. A mall would produce hundreds of jobs for people in Lawrence, both college students and those living permanently here. If those people who lived in Lawrence, worked at a mall in Lawrence, wouldn't you think that they would spend their money in Lawrence. Downtown cannot provide hundreds of jobs, but a mall could. Think of the best think for Lawrence as a whole... not those few downtown.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

The tell tale sign of an irrelevant shopping district is an abundance of resale and "antique", aka junk, shops combined with bars, restaurants and personal services, like tatoo, massage, etc. That is the makeup of a "tourist trap."

Take a stroll down Mass and count 'em.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

Good points, Marion. I used the term "irrelevant" for a reason. I did not say "failing."

If a tourist attraction on Mass brings in dollars from visitors, that is fine.

The residents of Lawrence need a place to buy what they need to maintain their homes and their wardrobes.

Generally speaking, we don't find that downtown anymore.

lelly 12 years, 1 month ago

This article and the study it reported on disgusted me. Like the "Lawrence is so mean to its homeless" story, one has to wonder what the ulterior motive is. Someone (I'll leave it to others to guess) has an agenda. Some in town seem to want Lawrence paved with cardboard homes and retail that pays $6/hr to its employees. This article seems to try to make the case for a mall in Lawrence and more big box stores. (wait until the follow up article interviews some deveioper who says just this) Don't buy into it Lawrence.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

Marion, regarding Hannah's, last I knew, they owned their building, so it was not a matter of renewing a lease at a high might have had everything to do with property taxes that have more than doubled in the last few years, and not being able to survive on reduced sales due to competition from big boxes, and Nebraska Furniture Mart.

Why aren't the Lefties complaining about the impact Nebraska Furniture Mart is having on mom-and-pop shops the same way they complain about WalMart? Could it have anything to do with the fact that Warren Buffet supports

LJW, it is time for a wage and benefit comparison between Nebraska Furniture Mart and Walmart.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

Go to and check out their "careers" section.

Then go to (Nebraska Furniture Mart). Try to find the careers section.

Harry_Manback 12 years, 1 month ago

A lot of the chain stores in Lawrence are so picked over, I usually go to the same one in JoCo just to get what I need. I think it just comes with it being a bigger city than Lawrence. There's more choices, and I enjoy the variety. Moving to Lawrence from Kansas City area was a big shock because it's so tiny. Not having the convenience of shopping and choice was hard to get used to at first, but it is much cheaper to live out here and I kind of like the fact that not everything looks the same like in JoCo.

LawrenceMommy 12 years, 1 month ago

Has it occured to any of the City Commissioners that part of the reason Lawrence residents might spend money away from town is the higher sales tax rate in Lawrence? I purchased every new car I've ever gotten outside of Lawrence because the savings in sales tax can be significant. Now if you buy out of state you will have to pay the tax when you register your car and you still pay the Lawrence rate, but as long as it's somewhere else in Kansas you just pay the rate for that locale. I saved $200 on my last car by comparing and pricing cars in town and then going out of town to buy it. I do that with almost every large purchase I make...home furnishings, cars, home improvement, electronics, etc. I just can't justify paying hundreds more for an item just for the "luxury" of buying it 30 miles closer to home. And it's never even occured to them that tax rates may have an impact.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

LawrenceMommy, please explain how you managed to register your new car in Douglas County without paying the Douglas County (and Lawrence, if that is where you live) sales tax. All of us would like to know.

My experience is that sales tax for a car is based on where you live (and register it) not where you purchased it.

And if you shop anywhere in Kansas, the same goes for other big ticket items. Ever wonder why you are asked for your zip code when you pay, even if you pay in cash?

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

Then I have been totally ripped off by Douglas County. I have always had to pay Douglas County sales tax when I registered my cars, even when I bought them at the auction in Missouri.

What was the tax rate you paid in Merriam? Was it 7.3 percent? If so, then the dealer reported that as a City of Lawrence sale to the Dept of Revenue, and that sales tax reverted to Dg Co and Lawrence.

Godot 12 years, 1 month ago

Don't any of you know about the destination-based sales tax that was passed a couple of years ago?

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