News and notes from around town:
• One of downtown Lawrence’s national chain retailers soon will be closing. Talbots will close its store at 646 Vt. on Jan. 22, according to employees at the shop. The store’s lease is expiring, and the company chose not to renew it, according to several sources. When the store opened 10 years ago, it was hoped to be the beginning of a trend to expand more retail uses onto Vermont Street. It also was part of a trend by members of the Fritzel family to bring several national retailers to properties they own in the northern end of downtown. Some, such as The Gap and American Eagle Outfitters, remain, while others like Abercrombie & Fitch and Eddie Bauer have left. A few new ones, such as Chico’s and Claire's have moved in.
There’s no word yet on whether a tenant has been found to take the Talbots space — although, as we previously reported, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce will be moving its offices to the second floor space of the building. It will be interesting to see if the idea of retail on Vermont Street gets a boost following the completion of the Lawrence Public Library expansion. That project, of course, will include a new parking garage that will be less than a half block away from the Talbots location.
Perhaps even more interesting to watch will be whether proposals emerge to redevelop the existing but small city-owned parking lot at the corner of Seventh and Vermont streets once the larger city-owned parking garage is completed across the street.
• On the subject of retail, there are some interesting figures if you dig deep enough into the information that the city’s Retail Task Force has been reviewing. In particular, one report from the business information services firm of Claritas Inc. provides a general picture of how many retail sales dollars leave Lawrence and in what category.
One analysis could be that female shoppers and computer geeks are killing Lawrence’s retail scene. Computer purchases and women’s clothing purchases show up as the two categories that have the biggest percentage gap between the amount of purchases made by Lawrence residents and the amount of sales made by Lawrence retailers. The list below 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.
- Cars and Trucks: $55.3 million (29.4 percent)
- Gasoline purchases: $48.2 million (39.5 percent)
- Women’s Juniors and Misses Wear: $26.2 million (52.3 percent)
- Computer Hardware, Software and Supplies: $18.3 million (73.9 percent)
- Furniture and Sleep Equipment: $9.8 million (49.5 percent)
- Men’s Wear: $9.4 million (38.6 percent)
- Lawn, garden and farm equipment supplies: $8.0 million (31.1 percent)
- Televisions, video recorders, video cameras: $7.2 million (41.6 percent)
- Jewelry: $7.0 million. (46.6 percent)
- Kitchenware and home furnishings: $6.1 million. (34.6 percent)
There are a handful of categories where Lawrence retailers have sales totals that are higher than the amount spent by Lawrence residents. Those areas are ones where the city is excelling at attracting consumers from outside the city. Lawrence is a grocery magnet — and perhaps more surprisingly — a lumber magnet. Lawrence retailers sold almost $21 million more in lumber and building materials than what Lawrence consumers purchased. I’m not sure what that means to the recent debate about whether Lowe’s should be allowed to build a store in Lawrence, but I’m sure you can discuss. Meals and snacks, which include those purchased at restaurants, also did well. Here’s the list of largest surpluses.
- Groceries: $51.9 million
- Lumber and building materials: $20.9 million
- Meals and snacks: $16.8 million
- Packaged liquor wine and beer: $13.5 million
- Books: $10.9 million
- Alcoholic drinks: $4.6 million
- Sewing, knitting and needlework goods: $1.1 million
- Paper and related products: $1.1 million
- Soaps, detergents and household cleaners: $839,761
- Audio equipment, musical instruments: $557,992
• Right before Christmas, Town Talk reported that the city’s boundaries actually shrank in 2010. Well, just like many waistlines during the holiday season, that didn’t end up being the case. Shortly after Town Talk printed the city numbers, City Hall revised them. It was determined that an annexation of nearly 50 acres along the Farmers' Turnpike and Queens Road extended would be finalized by the end of the year and should be included in the city’s 2010 boundary totals. So, if you are keeping score at home, the city’s boundaries grew by 47.59 acres in 2010. That is still the smallest amount of city growth since 2005.