Here’s a look at the per capita retail sales for Lawrence and eight other university cities that are close to other major metro shopping areas:
Davis, Calif.: $23,569
St. Cloud, Minn.: $17,207
Athens, Ga.: $16,697
Chapel Hill, N.C.: $16,433
College Station, Texas: $16,022
Fort Collins, Colo.: $15,164
Norman, Okla.: $14,683
Lincoln, Neb.: $11,751
A new report Tuesday showed how far behind Lawrence’s retail economy is compared with several other major university cities.
Lawrence ranked next to last in a city-compiled report that compared Lawrence with eight other university cities that also are close to major metro shopping areas.
The study found that Lawrence had taxable sales of $12,917 per person in 2009. That was second lowest of all cities studied, and was about 15 percent below the group average of $15,053.
The city’s Retail Task Force asked for the study after expressing concerns about how well Lawrence’s retail sector could perform given its proximity to both Kansas City and Topeka shopping districts.
The report found, though, that broader issues in the Lawrence economy may be playing a bigger role than its geography. The report looked at the gross domestic product of seven comparable college communities and found Lawrence had the lowest GDP both in terms of total dollars and on a per capita basis.
Per capita GDP, which measures the total output of a local economy, was $26,662 per person in 2008. That was about 20 percent below the group average of $33,527 per person.
“I don’t think we should be making excuses for what the numbers say,” said County Commissioner Mike Gaughan, who is a member of the task force. “We need to figure out how people can not only spend money here, but earn money here.”
The task force, which is meeting through the end of the year, did hear that there is potential to increase Lawrence’s retail spending by adding small boutique-style hotels downtown.
“I think that would really add to the retail of downtown,” Judy Billings, director of the convention and visitors bureau, told the task force. “People in Kansas City then might see Lawrence as a quick overnight getaway.”