Letters to the Editor

Retail trends

April 23, 2007


To the editor:

Construction of the Riverfront outlet mall and the Tanger outlet mall were proceeded by comments similar to Commissioner Mike Dever's outlook for new retail development at Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway: "I think it is going to add an opportunity for people outside of Lawrence to come shop : I think we're going to attract people to come to Lawrence."

Both of those previous retail developments failed to increase Lawrence's retail business or sales tax income in the long term, and the structures were converted to other uses.

Destination shoppers will only come to Lawrence for unique experiences, not to visit a retail area anchored by a big-box store they can find in their own community and surrounded by the same retail businesses to be found across the country.

The trend in most new shopping centers being built in the United States is to create a faux downtown or outdoor pedestrian ambiance. This community is failing to capitalize on that shift in retail style by allowing our downtown to be marginalized and continuing to sprawl to the west.

Sally Hayden, Lawrence


Ragingbear 9 years ago

That is definitely true Pilgrim. While I don't want to see a McDonalds or a Starbuck's on every corner, it is just foolish to somehow expect small businesses to afford the high prices of rent for the Mass Street area. Nor are there going to be enough of them to fill all the locations that will be there. Chasing out all of the larger businesses will only serve to make downtown more and more desolate, eventually resulting in places like Z's Espresso and that Hardware store downtown that has stuff all over the floor and prices twice as high as any other place.

It is important to see a balance. But the idea of limiting things to the point that not even a place that has 2 stores can be downtown will only serve to make more stores like that place that sells Anime stuff, yet is never open. Or the "antique" store that sells what others would call junk.

Richard Heckler 9 years ago

Cottin's Hardware does not have high prices. Cottins many times is comparable though sometimes less than Westlake.

Big box stores such as Wal-Mart bring nothing new to town just more of the same thing therfore not more choices. If we allow more big box retail to take over shoppers have fewer choices at not necessarily dramatically lower prices. Each time a shopping experience takes place so does $6.00 or more on gasoline.

Big box stores practice brainwashing with their expensive advertising. Low end products do not equal the best bang for the buck. BTW a new family to town from Germany stated yesterday that they never have and never will shop Wal-Mart for they know that is one area that is ruining what the USA formerly represented.

Nothing wrong with a flea market/antique store as this is where the true choices are.

Sally Hayden is absolutely correct on all points. Most all major downtown areas in the country are being brought back to life so the Lawrence Real Estate industry, of which the World Company is a part, is going backwards. Lawrence taxpayers cannot afford two downtowns.

Richard Heckler 9 years ago

Planning for Healthy Main Streets

Strong land use planning provides a critical line of defense for communities concerned about the proliferation of chain stores and sprawling big box development. Zoning rules can bolster downtown vitality, retain small-scale, pedestrian-friendly shopping districts, nurture local ownership, and ensure that future development meets the needs and goals of the community.

Unfortunately, too many cities and towns learn this the hard way. Residents wake up one morning to discover that Wal-Mart or Borders is on the way. The developer has already submitted a formal application. The site is zoned for large-scale retail and the zoning code allows no opportunity for citizens or municipal officials to review or reject the proposal.

Rather than being left to the mercy of developers, a growing number of communities are taking a proactive approach. They are adopting land use rules that limit the growth of chains and protect the community's character and local economy.

cowboy 9 years ago

put the pipe down merrill , they aren't talking about cottins , its the other one right on mass downtown.

Lawrence should make mass into a pedestrian mall , make the main street quiet by removing the traffic and exhaust , open up space for seasonal businesses and an outdoor entertainment venue. The city or DLA could actually get proactive and schedule entertainment that is not a bar environment . Get rid of the BUMS , and get some imagination into action. Put in some larger gardens and make it smell good too . Its not that hard

jonas 9 years ago

I like how people act like they know what they are talking about.

Richard Heckler 9 years ago

Cowboy -"Lawrence should make mass into a pedestrian mall , make the main street quiet by removing the traffic and exhaust , open up space for seasonal businesses and an outdoor entertainment venue. The city or DLA could actually get proactive and schedule entertainment that is not a bar environment . Get rid of the BUMS , and get some imagination into action. Put in some larger gardens and make it smell good too . Its not that hard"

Most of what you suggest seems very practical however I would only close off the 800/900 blocks of Mass as a pedestrian mall and leave all east/west streets open. Truthfully this could be done by simply declaring those two blocks of Mass Street a no parking zone. Parking places are rarely readily available. Would not need an expensive brick "cosmetic" change.

How about changing operating hours as well?

Homeless are always going to be downtown and moving the SA off of New Hampshire WILL NOT help. It will only leave them fewer places to go for refuge.

Richard Heckler 9 years ago

City's problem Sunday, April 22, 2007

To the editor:

What a lovely metaphor: Matriarch Sue Hack and her loving family (city of Lawrence) gathered around the kitchen table deciding who should foot the bill for their botched budget. "I know! Let's share our debt with all of our neighbors! They'll gladly pay for our mishandling of funds." Tough toenails, gang.

There was plenty of money when you voted yourselves outrageous raises. You wasted a hefty amount of cash hiring consultants to study projects that then got tabled (and will cost even more when you can find the intestinal fortitude to make a decision about them later).

Lesson to be learned: Do not spend more than you have. Many of us grew up with the ethic of "cash and carry." If you can't afford it, you don't purchase it. The local taxes are already excessive. What are seniors to do? KPERS hasn't given retirees a cost of living adjustment in over six years. What Social Security giveth, Medicare taketh away. Many of us must learn to adjust our budgets annually. So must Lawrence.

It's bad enough we're all having to pay for "The Decider's" little war in Iraq (not the country that attacked the WTC, y'all). We don't need another Wal-Mart. We don't need more recreation centers. We don't need a new library. Just keep the unruly teen population out of the basement, and there is sufficient room (and quiet) for serious patrons.

This is your problem, City Commission. You fix it. Internally.

Barbara Paris, Lawrence

Richard Heckler 9 years ago

Myth One: Chain stores benefit consumers through lower prices and greater selection.

Most chains have a stated policy to offer deep discounts when they enter a new market. Translation: undercut the local competition until there is no local competition. Backed by corporate headquarters, a chain store can afford to operate at a loss for as long as it takes to secure a dominant position in the market. Then prices begin to rise. In Virginia, for example, researchers found that prices at several Wal-Mart stores varied by as much as 25 percent depending on the level of local competition.

Booksellers know perhaps better than anyone what retail consolidation means for consumer selection. Barnes & Noble certainly carries many titles under one roof, but these are the same titles offered at each of its 1,000 stores. In aggregate, independent booksellers stock---and promote---far more titles than either of the big chains. They take risks on unknowns and small publishers. I need only drop a few names to demonstrate what this means: Barbara Kingsolver, Charles Frazier, Frank McCourt, and Amy Tan.

The same is true of every retail sector. Home Depot and Wal-Mart don't do business with small and mid-sized manufacturers. They only buy from big manufacturers and stock a virtually identical mix of goods in each of their outlets. The end result is fewer choices for consumers, not only in what they buy, but from whom they buy it.

Myth Two: Chain stores generate economic growth.

Local officials often get dollar signs in their eyes at the prospect of a new chain store coming to town. This is not economic development, however. It is economic displacement. Unlike new manufacturing facilities, which do generate added wealth, new retail stores simply displace sales at existing, often locally owned, businesses. These businesses in turn will experience reduced sales tax revenue, job losses, and potential failure. Several studies confirm that the end result of new chain store development is at best marginal overall improvement in taxes and jobs, and, at worst, a decline.

On top of this, communities will lose the tremendous economic benefits of local ownership. Unlike absentee owners, local owners keep profits circulating in the local economy and support other local businesses, like the community bank or neighborhood print shop. Local merchants are more than providers of goods and services; they chair neighborhood organizations, host community events, and contribute more time and money to local causes than absentee-owned firms.

altarego 9 years ago

Want to revive downtown? That River front mall (what is it - Gabe and Blakes? - we could eminent domain thier hienies) would make a BIG OL HOOTERS! There's your unique! The chamber could advertise "We got the biggest Hooters in the country!!"

Stop in for some wangs and a pitcher after the library!!!

Now you're talking gateway.

blackwalnut 9 years ago

People come to Lawrence for the downtown shops and restaurants, for the events in South Park, for the galleries and art fairs and craft shows and parades that make Lawrence unique. I know this because I put various people up in my house all the time and this is what they do. It's also why I came to Lawrence when I lived in another Kansas town.

People go to Olathe, OP and KC to shop at chain stores and eat in chain restaurants.

DeverCo are going to ruin what Lawrence has. They their sponsors will have the money and Lawrence will have empty stores and an upset local market.

Lawrence should not compete with OP. It's different. That's why people live here. It's why housing prices have gone up and are the highest in Kansas.

DeverCo will spoil it all. It will happen quickly, too - too soon to vote him out once people discover we were all right to warn he would deliver Lawrence to big business.

blackwalnut 9 years ago

Our downtown is not a faux downtown - it is the real thing. It is a real village with shops that have been there for decades. That can't be duplicated by some faux new thing DeverCo wants to put in, that will look like the sterile faux thing in every other town. The real downtown is why "tourists" come to Lawrence.

I agree some of the shops could stay open past 6 p.m. on days other than just Thursdays - even though that is traditional downtown hours everywhere.

Maybe a few downtown shops would be willing to try staying open a little later. Sunflower? Envy? Blue Dandelion? Hello? Just try it for a few weeks, take out an ad together in the LJW to let people know.

altarego 9 years ago

Ok, Merrill, you got one right. In this country, if you wanted to screw something, you could actually go to any hardware store and buy screws. They were good hard screws. They came in lots of different sizes and shapes. A good old slotted head screw properly machined and driven with a good flat head screwdriver was pure no-slip joy. Then the industry started softening the screw so it wouldn't stand up under screwwing. Then they came up with alternative heads to compensate (square, torx,etc...), which enabled softer and softer screws to the point we are at today. That is that what they sell for screws today are lumps of silly putty molded and colored to look like metal in little blister packs of 7 (scientifically calculated to insure you buy at least one more pack than you need). Except for deck screws which are not soft, but brittle. Don't use them to clean your ears because they will snap off!!!

Because of the Depot, generations from X forward will never know the pure simple joy of a good screw, and that is just sad.

OnlyTheOne 9 years ago

Cowboy, Merrill

"Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it."

Think back - if you're old enough - to when downtown Kansas City, Kansas (yes Kansas) was a nice shopping area with minimal empty businesses. They had a glorious idea of turning Minnesota Avenue into a pededtrian mall with minimal vehicular traffic. Making the change caused may of the stores to go out of business and it has never recovered.

countrygirl 9 years ago

Just one question--if the shopping is so great in Lawrence, why do so many people in Lawrence leave to go shopping?

Confrontation 9 years ago

"Because of the Depot, generations from X forward will never know the pure simple joy of a good screw, and that is just sad."

Best post of the day!

KsTwister 9 years ago

Look up http://www.Deadmalls.com

And please note Bannister and Tanger have not yet made the list. Walmart and Target will not locate in a mall for this reason.

countrygirl 9 years ago

So are the people of Lawrence heading off to shop at some niche in KC? Or off to Sam's Club and Costco? Stop worrying so much about what will bring in people from out of town and worry more about what it takes to get the people who live here, to shop here.

dadaism 9 years ago

Sally before you were a program assistant in the geology department at K.U.

Did you have experience or credentials as a retail consultant, a city planner, or work for a major retailer with access to Douglas County's sale tax income information, or have personal knowledge of the trends in how most new shopping centers are being built in the United States.

Or are you just copying and attempting to expand on Professor McKay's letter with something you read prepared by the local self styled planning experts?

Janet Lowther 9 years ago

Lawrence has a great downtown, but Downtown Lawrence was built to provide the retail needs of a city with a population of about 14,000!

In all business, the rule seems to be grow or die.

The groups representing the residential neighborhoods adjacent to downtown have been quite fierce in opposing any expansion of Downtown Lawrence, and other groups have been quite fierce in opposing even the redevelopment of marginal downtown property, like the east side of the 700 block of New Hampshire St.

The city should consider earmarking the entire area north of eleventh, west of Connecticut, east of Tennessee and south of the river for future retail or mixed use development. I'm sure both Old West Lawrence and the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association will scream bloody murder, but Downtown Lawrence must grow or it will die as a retail district. Perhaps a provision requiring that eminent domain never be used to acquire property for development might allay some of their concerns. . .

Downtown Lawrence IS dying as a retail district. It is doing great as an entertainment district, but bars and restaurants seem to be displacing retailers on a regular basis.

Of course, if they were to allow Downtown to expand, then they would have to bite the bullet and deal with the traffic. I know people used to come from at least as far as Manhattan to go to the Riverfront Mall, but it was such a pain to get to they quit coming.

conservative 9 years ago

Countrygirl gets it:

"Stop worrying so much about what will bring in people from out of town and worry more about what it takes to get the people who live here, to shop here."

The new retail won't draw much from downtown. Two different types of products and clients. However it will keep retail dollars being spent in Lawrence instead of Topeka and KC. This weekend I went to KC and ate at Red Lobster, shopped at Lowes and Dicks Sporting Goods, and filled up on gas in KC before driving home. All money that I would have gladly spent in Lawrence if there was a seafood restraunt, a large sporting goods store, and if Home Depot carried the tool brand that I prefer.

Jamesaust 9 years ago

You always have to wonder about people who feel a need to "adjust" quotations to make their point.

I believe the quote is: "I think we're going to attract people to come to Lawrence who otherwise would be going to Topeka." Here's the original: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2007/apr...

Those "other" projects were outlet malls. Shock! Surprise! People don't want to go through the hassle of getting off a toll-road to shop for odd pieces of Corning Wear. Thank goodness the proposed development isn't focused on such an unusual consumer.

"The trend in most new shopping centers being built in the United States is to create a faux downtown or outdoor pedestrian ambiance."

Surely, the author isn't advocating that we bulldoze downtown to allow a recreation with plenty of cornfield 'elbow room'? Granted, getting rid of the hippies is attractive but I believe we can be "diverse" enough to allow for all.

bugmenot 9 years ago

Ew. I'd rather puke my guts out than eat at Red Lobster. In fact, I think the two likely go hand in hand.

Do you honestly think Lawrence is a less-nice place to live because we lack RED LOBSTER?!? I can't imagine driving any great distance to eat there. I guess there really is a market for this stuff.

Jamesaust 9 years ago

"I'd rather puke my guts out than eat at Red Lobster."

Well, at least you're a good Christian observing Leviticus 11:12.

Want to stop death and misery in the world? STOP EATING LOBSTER! How clear does God have to make it? Its an abomination.

Mkh 9 years ago

I agree 100% w/ Merrill's 8:49am post.

countrygirl 9 years ago

Wonder if a Hooter's in the old Tanger Mall would get people off the turnpike?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 9 years ago

Conservative Mariscos and many restaurants have seafood on their menu. Westlakes can order almost anything What specific kind of sport are you talking about?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 9 years ago

The only time I go out of town to shop is when my mother-in-law wants to go to Sams for a discount on her vitamins. Of course, maybe I'm not the fashion hound that most of you are, and come to think of it, I'm not a big consumer. How unAmerican of me.

blackwalnut 9 years ago

As long as there is a bigger city next to a smaller one, there will be some traffic to the big city to shop. There is nothing wrong with that.

There is plenty of traffic coming the other way, too. Sheesh, every time the LJW does the "man on the street" question half the people give their residence as somewhere else.

blackwalnut 9 years ago

One thing Lawrence does not need is a Hooter's. Another is a Red Lobster.

Sally Hayden 9 years ago

These letters, as with most comment chains on LJW, have gotten wildly off topic. I was not addressing whether new retail at 6th and SLT would keep Douglas County shoppers in town to shop; that is another topic.

I was addressing the issue of bringing out-of-county shoppers into Lawrence to spend money. And I didn't need to hide in anonymity to state my opinions.

I will share the response I wrote to Dadaism, who questioned my credentials and independence:

Letters to the Editor are a platform for everyone; credentials are not required. As it happens, though, I do have 12 graduate hours in urban planning; prior to that I worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation; I currently support the Kansas Land Trust; and I have a lifelong interest in architecture, urban design, and land use, which I foster with reading and study.

I wrote and submitted my letter several days before McKay's letter appeared on Sunday; I have no personal acquaintance with him nor did anyone else have any input in preparation of my comments.

Katara 9 years ago

Posted by altarego (anonymous) on April 23, 2007 at 8:51 a.m. (Suggest removal) Want to revive downtown? That River front mall (what is it - Gabe and Blakes? - we could eminent domain thier hienies) would make a BIG OL HOOTERS! There's your unique! The chamber could advertise "We got the biggest Hooters in the country!!"

Stop in for some wangs and a pitcher after the library!!!

Now you're talking gateway. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ snicker I don't think that is a Hooters you've been going to.

Godot 9 years ago

The reason Tanger Mall and Riverfront Mall failed is because they were subsidized by government bonds, meaning, the people who were behind them couldn't get private financing, and/or did not want to risk their own dough on them because they really weren't a good bet.

The only influence government has had on the new projects on the west side of town has been to stand in the way.

That tells me they will probably be successful.

blackwalnut 9 years ago

Weavers could carry a more stylish line of clothing. Seriously, their stuff is mostly pretty dowdy. An exception is that I'm told they have the best selection of prom dresses - but that's a pretty limited market. Their housewares department is ok.

Weavers also ought to stay open late more than one night a week.

ilovelucy 9 years ago

Cmon BW: I'll bet you'd look real pretty in a prom dress. :) Weavers also stocks Clinique and Estee Lauder. I think it's the only place in town that does. I need my face paint to enhance my natural beauty (haha).

altarego 9 years ago

I love Hooters. I love Red lobster. Heck, I love Olive Garden. CRACKER BARREL!!!!

Granted I have visited none of these in the past few years, but I'm not part of some modern trend that is threatening the precious character of Lawrence. I have loved Red Lobster since I was a a kid. Hooters has always been a favorite lunch stop since they started popping up all over (if you see a pun in there, you have a dirty, dirty mind).

Franchise is not a dirty word.

If the old barbed wire plant became a Hooters, then the big ol (say 12' tall) glistening orange letters would reflect off the river in the Kansas sunset. The riverfront hawks would have a perch made from the throbbing heart of American hospitality. What better way to legitamize downtown Lawrence. There's your gateway for you.

I think I'm going to cry.

PS If the letter writer thinks this thread has skidded off topic now, I warn you all to put you OT seat belts on for this side note: to those that say Hooters objectifies women, I say YOU objectify women with your condescension.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.