If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Although a new study indicates that downtown Lawrence’s shift to an entertainment district may be topping out, almost half of the sales tax receipts in downtown still are collected by bars and restaurants.
The study released last week by the city’s economic development coordinator compared 2007 and 2009 sales tax receipts in several downtown business categories. Bars and restaurants collected 49 percent of the taxes in 2009, but that was down about 3 percent from 2007. Although a number of retail businesses closed or moved out of downtown during that time, the retail sector posted some modest gains.
The sports, books, music and hobby stores category recorded a 10.3 percent increase in sales tax receipts in that period, “Other retail,” which includes barber shops, boutiques and about everything else except clothing stores, had a 6.5 percent increase.
The big gain recorded by sports, books, music and hobby stores once again raises questions about how downtown retailers might benefit from extending their hours later in the evening to take better advantage of people who come downtown to enjoy an evening cocktail or meal.
A quick check on LJW.com’s Marketplace site shows that four downtown bookstores — Borders, Dusty Bookshelf, The Raven and Signs of Life — all have extended evening hours. All are open until at least 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and a couple extend their hours until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Signs of Life, which also operates a cafe is open until 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
It’s certainly reasonable to wonder if the increased sales tax receipts in the category that includes book stores is at least partially attributable to those stores extending their hours to take advantage of shoppers who also are downtown to enjoy entertainment venues like bars and restaurants.
Individual downtown retailers, of course, are in the best position to know whether increased evening sales are great enough to justify the increased cost of keeping their businesses open later. However, especially during daylight-saving time, when long evenings invite more foot traffic downtown, the idea of staying open later may be worth additional consideration.
Rather than bemoaning the loss of downtown stores or worrying about the balance between entertainment venues and traditional retail, it might be smarter to try to build a more symbiotic relationship between the two.