Archive for Thursday, January 6, 2011

Retail report details what Lawrence shoppers buy — and whether they buy it in town

Ann Evans, of Lawrence, left, gets some advice from Kathy Swanson, owner of Spectator’s, 710 Mass., while Evans shopped at the women’s clothing store Thursday. A new report has found that the city is losing large amounts of sales in the category of women’s clothing.

Ann Evans, of Lawrence, left, gets some advice from Kathy Swanson, owner of Spectator’s, 710 Mass., while Evans shopped at the women’s clothing store Thursday. A new report has found that the city is losing large amounts of sales in the category of women’s clothing.

January 6, 2011


On the street

What do you leave Lawrence to shop for most often?

Work clothes. I don’t limit myself to Lawrence for shopping.

More responses

This list shows how large the gaps are for certain categories both in terms of dollars and then in terms of percentage. The numbers are for 2009.

  1. Cars and trucks: $55.3 million (29.4 percent)
  2. Gasoline purchases: $48.2 million (39.5 percent)
  3. Women’s, juniors and misses wear: $26.2 million (52.3 percent)
  4. Computer hardware, software and supplies: $18.3 million (73.9 percent)
  5. Furniture and sleep equipment: $9.8 million (49.5 percent)
  6. Menswear: $9.4 million (38.6 percent)
  7. Lawn, garden and farm equipment supplies: $8.0 million (31.1 percent)
  8. Televisions, video recorders, video cameras: $7.2 million (41.6 percent)
  9. Jewelry: $7.0 million. (46.6 percent)
  10. Kitchenware and home furnishings: $6.1 million. (34.6 percent)

Here’s the list of largest surpluses.

  1. Groceries: $51.9 million
  2. Lumber and building materials: $20.9 million
  3. Meals and snacks: $16.8 million
  4. Packaged liquor, wine and beer: $13.5 million
  5. Books: $10.9 million
  6. Alcoholic drinks: $4.6 million
  7. Sewing, knitting and needlework goods: $1.1 million
  8. Paper and related products: $1.1 million
  9. Soaps, detergents and household cleaners: $839,761
  10. Audio equipment, musical instruments: $557,992

About $150 million.

That’s a number Lawrence city commissioners likely will be keeping in mind as they consider a series of recommendations from a city task force working to improve the health of the local retail industry.

A new report studied by members of the city’s Retail Task Force provides a general look at just how many retail sales dollars are escaping Lawrence in a year. In 2009, the business information services firm of Claritas Inc. estimated the total to be $153.9 million.

“I think that should tell us a couple of things,” said City Commissioner Rob Chestnut, who chairs the task force. “One, it speaks to the importance of shopping local, and the other thing it emphasizes is the need for information. We need to know what opportunities we’re missing out on.”

For that, they may want to ask Lawrence’s female shoppers. The report found the city was losing large amounts of sales in the women’s clothing category. The report estimated Lawrence residents spent $50.08 million on women’s clothing in 2009. But it estimated Lawrence stores sold $23.85 million in women’s clothing. That’s a gap of more than $26 million, or about 52 percent of the total.

“That one really jumped out at me,” said Roger Zalneraitis, the city’s economic development planner, who has been working with the task force. “Whenever you see a gap of more than 50 percent, you can be pretty sure that people are spending a lot of money outside the community.”

Clothes aficionados aren’t the only ones taking their money elsewhere. Computer buyers are spending an even greater percentage outside of Lawrence. The report found Lawrence consumers spent about $24 million on computers in 2009, but Lawrence stores captured only about $6 million in sales. That’s about an $18 million gap, or a leakage rate of about 75 percent.

“Computers seem like something we should be capturing more of,” Zalneraitis said. “With the type of community we have, that kind of surprises me.”

In terms of just total dollars, vehicle purchases and gasoline sales were the two largest categories Lawrence lost out on. Between the two, the gap totaled $103 million.

Ann Evans, of Lawrence, left, gets some advice from Kathy Swanson, owner of Spectator’s, 710 Mass., while Evans shopped at the women’s clothing store Thursday. A new report has found that the city is losing large amounts of sales in the category of women’s clothing.

Ann Evans, of Lawrence, left, gets some advice from Kathy Swanson, owner of Spectator’s, 710 Mass., while Evans shopped at the women’s clothing store Thursday. A new report has found that the city is losing large amounts of sales in the category of women’s clothing.

There are areas where the city excelled. Its position as the largest city in the county helps it thrive in the grocery market. The amount of groceries sold in Lawrence totaled about $52 million more than what Lawrence consumers spent on groceries in 2009. That’s a clear sign that Lawrence’s groceries are attracting shoppers from outside the city.

Other similar categories showed how much Lawrence benefits from being a college town that often attracts visitors who partake in merriment. Packaged liquor sales had a surplus of $13.5 million, and sales from eating out had a $16.8 million surplus.

One that may surprise some — but perhaps not the folks at Lowe’s — is that Lawrence is a bit of a magnet for lumber buyers. Lumber and building materials had a $20.9 million surplus.

Members of the city’s retail task force are recommending that the city leaders start studying these type of retail statistics in more depth. The task force is asking the city to figure out how much it would cost to either hire a consultant or create its own database of detailed retail figures.

The report also asks the city to explore creating a position at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce to manage the database and help local businesses take advantage of it.

Zalneraitis said a future database could include much more detailed information, even providing retailers information about which brands consumers most often leave the city to buy.

He also said the data could give the city a chance to compare how its retail economy stacks up to other communities. For example, the $153 million gap, represents about 11 percent of the total spending — $1.3 billion — done by Lawrence consumers in 2009. But Zalneraitis said he didn’t have information about how that compared to the performance of other cities.

City commissioners are expected to consider the recommendations of the retail task force during the next several weeks.


loveroflarry 7 years, 5 months ago

As noted in the other article on this same topic, the problem with women's clothing in this town is it doesn't appeal to the new generation of working women. If I look into a store window and see stuff my mother or aunts would wear, I'm probably not going in. I don't want to spend an hour searching through the few ladies clothing stores downtown to walk away with one or two items I can wear to work. (Not trying to offend the proprietors of these stores...but, then again, you probably already know what demographic you are appealing to--not mine). And, as many (including myself) noted in the other article, the pricing of some of these items is a bit much.

City of Lawrence: there is a generational turnover, perhaps look into what the younger professional women are interested in buying?

cozy 7 years, 5 months ago

For all the sorostitutes in this town, its surprising that we don't have a Victoria's Secret or anything else for "younger" women..

bmcmurray 7 years, 5 months ago

I couldn't agree more!!! Weaver's, Saffees and Spectators either have clothes for the older woman, clothes for the teen or they are too expensive. I'm a hip 46 year old and I don't wear cruise-wear with bling, stretchy travel clothes or jeans that show the crack of my tush. I have asked Weaver's to update their buying but always get grunts from the very old women who work there. I also miss the nice lingerie store where they actually fit you and they sold beautiful and sexy sets. Boy shorts are for girls, not women. We're also lacking a nice men's clothing store that sells to the 25-55 year old with clean lines and a European flair. No golf shirts. No sports logos and no shorts or pants with cargo pockets!!! We can be a college town and then much more if we just try.

Scott Morgan 7 years, 5 months ago

Any serious shopping trips go a bit like this is my household. I-70 to the last exit in Topeka.

skinny 7 years, 5 months ago

I buy most of my stuff online, it is cheaper, free shipping, and no TAXES!!!!!

kernal 7 years, 5 months ago

Oh, yes there are taxes as well as S&H.

das 7 years, 5 months ago

Another problem...which we've read articles that Lawrence is priding itself as a retirement destination. There was an article about this subject here not to long ago in fact. Add that to a young college town and you have a serious problem in the form of a wide rift in whom to cater your clothing business to.....Is it the Urban Outfitters/Gap or Spectators demographic we are trying to court?......Looks like Talbots lost.....

conservative 7 years, 5 months ago

If the city wants to increase the sales dollars in lawrence they need to stop turning up their nose and throwing road blocks every time a national chain wants to come to lawrence. They also need to create "destination" areas where shopping locations can congregate. Think 95th and quivira or 95th and metcalf. And most importantly stop approving special taxing districts. The commission needs to realize we are already extremely high on our tax rates and many of us will never shop at a store charging an extra 2% no matter what.

impska 7 years, 5 months ago

Absolutely. When I want clothes, I might visit one or two stores in Lawrence, but I'm not interested in driving all over town so I can hit one here and one there and still not end up finding what I need at the tiny, expensive "boutique" stores downtown. I'd rather just drive to Legends or KC and end up actually finding some of the things I'm looking for after all the time and effort.

It's no big mystery why women don't shop for clothes in Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

For computers has the city tried to attract for downtown:

  1. Apple Store
  2. Sony Plus They may decline once they analyze the market.

The real problem is that the Lawrence retail market is over built and scattered everywhere thanks to the westside builders and not smart city commission decisions.

Big time retailers can tell that Lawrence retail is flooded and there are not enough retail dollars to support a KCMO metro shopping experience.

Bring the core retail shopping back to downtown. Instead it appears westside developers are turning downtown into more of an entertainment district = mostly more alcohol. One building at a time.

Job commuters spend where they work... bottom line. What's missing is a lot of good paying jobs in Lawrence, Kansas. Lawrence movers and thinkers pride themselves in supporting low wages.

My guess is a lot of Lawrence dollars go to Oak Park Mall. One of the very few shopping areas that has not turned into a dinosaur. AND KCMO is doing a lot towards revitalizing their downtown. An older neighborhood a few blocks from the new performing arts center is being revitalized.... some beautiful old homes in this area.

overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

'and can I get your zip code?' sound familiar. If they ask for my phone number, I give them the time and temp number.

CLARKKENT 7 years, 5 months ago



Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 5 months ago

Ahhh, the copy and paste monster arrives! A bit late for you Merril, I figured you'd be on this like a tick on a hound dog. The other comments are absolutely correct. Everytime we have a glimmer of hope in developing a "destination" retail development, the commision caves to every whining bleeding heart loud mouthed liberal neighbor with an axe to grind. Why did we run off Lowes? Outback? Why did we fight Walmart for two solid years? (not to mention the city lost, wasted thousands of dollars in Legal fees, the store is built, and thanks to the ridiculous restrictions is absolutely worthless). It seems that Wyandot and Topeka have it figured out. I will continue to send My message through my pocket book and keep shopping in cities with smart retail development. No Merril, it's not over developed, it's just been irresponsibly developed and further fouled up by the politics stemming from people like you. Kindly follow suit. Close tour mouth and send a message with how/where you shop. Guarantee you will get better results.

kernal 7 years, 5 months ago

Topeka destroyed it's downtown with it's first mall, White Lakes, and destroyed White Lakes with Westridge Mall. They are struggeling to rebuild downtown, still, forty some years later. Almost every city in the USA lost it's downtown to malls. I don't get why you think Wyandotte and Topeka have it figured out. They are trying to revitalize their downtown areas now and you think we should destroy ours?

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 5 months ago


I think we have a vital and strong downtown and it's not because we have been rude and turned down developers. The other part of the equation is growth. Like it or not, lawrence is growing. By leaps and bounds! And it's not growing down town. the new growth is and will continue to support additional retail as long as it is convenient. I no longer live anywhere near downtown, and as a result, no longer shop there either. I do, however, shop at the businesses closer to where I now live. Lawrence needs to invest in development of another retail core on the west side of town closer to the areas that lawrence is rapidly expanding. And down town isn't going to be hurt a bit, I don't go there unless I have to anymore.

gudpoynt 7 years, 5 months ago

Amen kernal.

Some people get excited about the prospect of navigating the network of parking lots that sprawl across big box land in order to see how fast they can send their money out of town.

"I'm gonna let ya' in on a little secret, Ray. K-Mart sucks."

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

About $100 million of the gap was related to automobile and gas purchasing.

When we were buying a used car, it became clear to us that the large student population in Lawrence makes used cars more expensive here than they would be elsewhere - there are many who buy cars without having them checked by a mechanic and are willing to pay more than the cars are worth (Kelley Blue Book value).

This makes it hard if you want to get the car checked before buying it, and don't want to pay more than it's worth - at least one guy sold his car to someone who didn't need it checked before we could get it into our mechanic.

If there had been a feasible way to buy from another city and get the car checked by our mechanic here, we might very well have bought outside Lawrence.

As far as gas purchases, I imagine people are commuting, and buy their gas outside of town off of the highways.

It seems to me that there is not much that can or will be done about these items, which make up the majority of the losses.

Of course, it wouldn't necessarily explain new car sales, unless prices are just higher here as well.

overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

gas prices around highways are always higher. If one works close to the state line, its worth getting gas in Missouri. Always cheaper.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

I stand corrected.

Maybe a lot of people are doing just that.

no_thanks 7 years, 5 months ago

Those who oppose the special tax district must not shop at the Legends or Town Center at 119th and Nall or the shopping Center across from Town Center (where the Apple Store is located). All of these locations have a special tax, but seem to do quite well. You can oppose it philosophically all you want, but judging by the success of this stores, it is clear that many people are willing to exchange their hard earned money for products offered at these stores.

Enoughsaid 7 years, 5 months ago

103 million in lost sales for vehicles and fuel seem high. With that being said, I don't know how many times I've heard someone try to buy a vehicle locally with no luck. It seems the local dealers have the attitude pay my price or go somewhere else.

My suggestion is for everyone is to quit buying their vehicles in Topeka or Johnson County because all that expensive sales tax goes into their coffers. Drive a few miles into KC MO and buy from one of those mega dealers on the Missouri side. By doing this it is a win win for everyone. You get a good deal, all your sales tax is paid to Douglas County and local dealers will still do all your warranty work. (Missouri dealers can't collect sales tax because you are buying out of state and Missouri unlike Kansas collect's no sales tax from buyers---it is done when you register your vehicle.

irvan moore 7 years, 5 months ago

i can't believe we got another picture of Ann in the paper.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

I believe Legends retail may well kill itself. Only a few will survive. That special sales tax going back into the developers pockets is the only thing saving it now.

My guess is most people shopping at the special sales tax locations have no idea they are paying more in sales taxes. Most definitely don't know those sales taxes are NOT going in to the local cookie jars ..... instead going to the property owners and/or developers.

Face it Lawrence retail dollars cannot support over built retail that is a fact. Every small community has a limited amount of retail dollars no matter what.

Lawrence should be careful why put Spectator’s out of business?

We moved to Lawrence knowing full well there would be times when KCMO would be necessary. No big deal. Buying what we could in Lawrence was perfectly okay and still is. Shopping was not high on the list.

Lawrence Kansas was our choice for a few reasons:

  1. Homeschooling resources was at the top of the list. The arts center,KU and USD 497 all have been good experiences. If our children wanted public school at some point USD 497. was among the best. USD 497 was willing to be a partner in our homeschooling endeavor. Then again so is Waxman's Candle,fire department,library which is to say Lawrence is good.

  2. Lawrence is a good size community for walking and biking. You can bike to anywhere in Lawrence,Kansas. Actually you walk to most anywhere in this city considering most destinations are probably within a 3 mile radius.

  3. Of course downtown with all the trees was a main attraction and because it was still alive and was beautiful. Woolworth's and a few mom and pop clothing stores were around,good shoe stores, Johnstons furniture store,Everything But Ice,Sunflower Outdoor and Bike and a few others were here at the time. Some are still here.

  4. The Community Mercantile

  5. Lawrence is friendly....... a strong point.

  6. Lawrence citizens appeared to be very active in local politics when is to say people give a damn!

  7. If we wanted big city culture and an airport KCMO was close enough.

overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

is it wrong to like your hometown? to chose where you want to live based on your lifestyle? does everyone who has a different perspective than you harbor have some problem?

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 5 months ago

"I believe Legends retail may well kill itself. Only a few will survive. That special sales tax going back into the developers pockets is the only thing saving it now."


George Lippencott 7 years, 5 months ago

ON a side note. Why do we the taxpayers need to spend more on a city position to tell us what is obvious from observation? Details are in many locations paid for by the business community not the taxpayers. I complain a lot about taxes for social services. Increasingly I find myself complaining about taxes for business. Everybody is at the trough. Dos the “new normal” apply to anybody but the consumer?

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

I find it odd that, having completed the report, they then recommend we do more studies.

Didn't their report give us the information we wanted? If not, why did they get paid?

beezee 7 years, 5 months ago

This article is a total load of "merde." The sole thing WORSE is that tax dollars went to generate said merde.

An awful lot of "shopping," from what I have seen, is recreational and takes place during the lunch break people have. Not much gets bought but a lot gets considered. My guess is that similarly a lot of serious shopping, especially for clothing, takes place on lunch breaks or after work. Sooooo, if a woman works in Topeka or Olathe well then YEAH-- THAT's where she'll spend time clothing shopping! And by the way, she'll find a lot greater selection there, of styles and quality, because-- DUHHHH-- those are bigger metro areas that can support more retail.

I suppose the next idiotic tax expense our retail hand-wringers will propose is sending a team to bigger cities to hang around Dillards, Macy's, etc and interview shoppers. My guessis that the team, on THEIR lunch breaks, will.... SHOP!

overthemoon 7 years, 5 months ago

Tax dollars weren't spent on generating these statistics. Retail stats come from the retail industry. City people are using that research and paying attention, as well they should.

Mark Jakubauskas 7 years, 5 months ago

Well, now, let's try a rational look at the numbers:

Women's clothing, computer hardware/software, menswear, and electronics all may be online purchases more than retail flight. I know most of my purchases in the menswear and computer category are about 90% online, due to brand preference (clothing) and the ability to rapidly shop for the best price (computer stuff). Given the volatile price nature of computer hardware/software, it may well be argued that a traditional storefront approach to computer sales is inefficient and economically unfeasible.
Furniture and home furnishings - I'm betting Nebraska Furniture Mart has eaten a lot of that, especially since there aren't many furniture stores in town - Johnson Furniture gone, Blue Heron, others. Lawn/garden/farm is a bit of a puzzler, since I don't see there being stores elsewhere that provide this in the absence of a choice in Lawrence. Gasoline - that's commuter traffic right there.

Probably the one big thing that sticks out to me is the biggest item - car and truck sales - which suggests that people are indeed finding better bargains elsewhere. If anything, this should be a "wake-up" call to auto dealers - are you providing the best prices ? service ? selection ?

On the surpluses side, a lot of "staple" items that people buy everyday - groceries, liquor, meals, household cleaners - you can get this stuff anywhere, and there's no economic incentive to drive to Topeka or KC.

thelonious 7 years, 5 months ago

You hit the nail right on the head. When I read this this morning, I thought well, of course there is a gap - it's called the internet. Let's see, I buy my most of my shirts from Eddie Bauer or LL Bean online (menswear), my wife gets most of her clothes online (womenswear), computers/electronics I buy mostly online (amazon, crutchfield), etc. This is not due to the fact that there are no stores or options in Lawrence - simply that the selection in the local stores is poor, they are not price competitive, etc. Case in point - I just bought a Toshiba 19" LCD TV from Crutchfield for $179 - lowest price at Best Buy for a 19" LCD TV was $229, and also I could not find Toshiba anywhere locally, which is a brand I prefer. My point - having another electronics retailer in Lawrence probably would not have kept me from "leaking" my purchse to the internet. I also recently purchased a used Honda Accord, had to go to KC to find what I wanted, the local dealers simply did not have a good selection of used cars, even the local Honda dealer. I do use the local Honda dealer for all of my Honda service (and they do a great job). We also buy all of our groceries & gas in Lawrence, and dine out here almost exclusively as well. I really doubt that there is as much "leakage" to KC & Topeka as feared - instead, it's the internet.

So the city commission is going to interpret this report as "Lawrence needs more retail stores", when the reality is that existing Lawrence retail stores need to wake up and realize that their biggest competitor in most areas is not KC or Topeka, but the internet - better selection and better pricing = more sales.

Jimo 7 years, 5 months ago

Absent detail on methodology, this article might as well appear on the editorial page as someone's opinion about where money is spent. I realize methodology is the most boring aspect of the entire report but since it's obvious that the "true" data is unknowable, this would give readers an idea of whether to put stock in this study or disregard it as flawed.

I, in fact, wondered much the same thing - how much of this "loss" is internet sales, for which there is no historical comparative marker? Computers are increasingly commoditized and consumers will be taking advantage of internet price comparisons to buy the best bargain.

Things like clothing require a broad selection but are quite sensitive to sales. (Less true for men's clothing.) It is very difficult for Lawrence retailers to compete with the selection from large urban concentrations of retail choices as well as the internet.

Things like furniture are both "large ticket" items yet will require, like clothing, broad selection. Again, difficult to provide in a small city. (What's surprising, giving the shipping costs, is how large the internet market for furniture is especially direct order.)

All I get from this study is, Lawrence should: 1. Encourage concentration of retail sites where variety of selection is important so that shoppers can walk from one offering to another (a/k/a, Downtown Lawrence, and/or a "mall") 2. Be aggressive in courting any retail offer for commodities. If Costco or Sam's Club expresses an interest, this would be one of the few instances where bribing the company with tax rebates might make sense.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence has a niche. We have a lot here for the immediate necessities such as groceries,gasoline,doctors,books etc etc.

Lawrence has a niche. Lawrence is located or surrounded by quite a lot of other retail choices within reasonable driving time therefore there is no need to duplicate. In fact Lawrence could be 50 years away from ever needing to duplicate.

As has been noted Lawrence gets downsized stores which eliminates choices and better values. Why? Because the Lawrence market cannot support dozens of large size big box stores nor do we want to be duped by special sales tax dollar supported big box stores(a load of crap).

Lawrence cannot say Lawrence is losing money if that money has never been here. Do taxpayers want to continue supporting developers with our tax dollars to increase their wealth and increase our tax bills? NO!

Lawrence has a niche. Lawrence does not need to be a shopping metropolis to satisfy local developers desires. Lawrence has what it needs and more than it can support.

Who wants to pay a special higher sales tax that goes back to the property owners and/or developers? Raise your hands. A lot of uninformed shoppers are getting duped I'd say.

BigPrune 7 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence is a "do as I say, NOT as I do" community.

So, our sales taxes increased to pay for an empty bus system to make the do-gooders feel good. The people that encouraged the sales tax increase go out of town to buy their stuff.

An interesting tid bit: Women make up 85% of retail purchases, ALL retail purchases. In conclusion, the blame for our retail bleed is women, liberal bleeding heart women.


Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 5 months ago

Whhhaaaat?? For many years the yard sign commission has fought all efforts to bring retail to Lawrence unless it was in "Beautiful Downtown Gangland Lawrence". They have opposed any enterprise that wanted to locate on south Iowa or west 6th street and it is a credit to the community that we have been able to overcome this myopic attention to forced economies. Many store outlets have tried to locate here, most recently Lowes, and been befuddled and besmirched by our city "government"

Nothing will ever change, since hardly anyone in Lawrence bothers to vote in city elctions and those who do are those with the agenda of blowing up south Iowa or with no clue at all to what the candidates stand for.

And the beat goes on, same song, thirty- third verse "No Cornfield Mall" .

Learn to like it, because nothing will ever change unless there is a great awakining in the eligible but indifferent voting population in this city.

7texdude 7 years, 5 months ago

Does Lawrence have any stores besides Wal-Mart and Target that sells plus sizes in clothing? This is a rather - ahem - large market the town has lost. You either have to drive to KC or order on-line to get quality big clothes.

saiful10 6 years, 7 months ago

I am really happy, Its really work .......

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