Archive for Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Town Talk: Retail sales totals slip in September; Cupcake Construction Co. says it will close Mass. St. location; U.S. 59 now slated to open week of Oct. 15-19

October 9, 2012, 11:24 a.m. Updated October 9, 2012, 12:36 p.m.


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News and notes from around town:

• Well, all streaks must come to an end — and no, this isn’t an article about the Kansas University football team. Instead, this is about a streak Lawrence fans didn’t want to see end.

The city’s latest sales tax collections are in the books, and the September report is the first one in 12 months that posted a decline compared to the same period a year ago.

Due to a lag in the reporting process, the city’s September sales tax report actually is for sales made from mid-July through mid-August. So that would indicate the back-to-school shopping period in Lawrence wasn’t quite as robust as it was the year before.

For the period, Lawrence retailers tallied $98.4 million in sales. That is the lowest total for the period — even when not adjusted for inflation — since 2007. When adjusted for inflation, it appears the total is the lowest since at least 1995, which is how far my records date back. (My abacus started smoking, though, so I can’t make that claim with complete certainty.) But, regardless, the back-to-school shopping period appeared to be a bit of a stinker.

The good news is that it is just one month. The rest of 2012 has been pretty darn good when it comes to retail sales in the city. With nine months in the book, the city is still projecting sales tax collections to come in $1.1 million more than budgeted in 2012.

Here’s a look at total retail sales in Lawrence through the September reporting period compared to the same period in past years. The numbers in parentheses are the sales totals adjusted for inflation in 2012 dollars:

— 2012: $1.00 billion

— 2011: $947.92 million ($970.84M)

— 2010: $916.52 million ($968.32M)

— 2009: $930.70 million ($999.43M)

— 2008: $966.22 million ($1.03B)

So, in other words, even when adjusted for inflation, Lawrence retailers are on track to have their best year since the pre-recession days of 2008.

But it will be interesting to see if the rest of 2012 finishes strong or whether the retail economy shows signs of losing momentum. As a certain football team can tell you, it often is not how you start but rather how you finish that makes the difference.

• Speaking of momentum, my diet may soon be gaining some. There are signs that changes are on the way for a downtown sweet shop.

The Facebook page of Cupcake Construction Company, 727 Mass., announced last night that its “last day on Mass. Street” will be Oct. 27. The posting also says customers have until then to use all coupons and gift cards.

The posting, however, also says the company will be honoring all orders it has received for weddings and special events. So, I’m not sure yet what the future holds for the Cupcake Construction Company, which was unique in that you could pick your own flavor of cake and your own flavor of icing and they would inject the icing into the cake. (I did not have any luck in getting them to squirt the icing directly into my mouth. It seemed more efficient to me.)

I put a call into the store this morning, but haven’t heard anything back yet. I’ll let you know if I hear of the cupcake shop opening in another location, or since they said they are only leaving Mass. Street, perhaps they will start selling cupcakes in the back alleys of downtown. (I would buy them.) I hope to have an update later today. Since the business is basically across the street from my office — and since they sell cupcakes — I suspect I will figure out a way to get over there.

UPDATE: So much for my diet gaining momentum. It looks like a new business is slated to go into the spot near the beginning of November, and it will sell . . . both cupcakes and candy. A representative with the new business gave me a call and confirmed a deal has been struck for his family business to move into the space, but talks are still underway with The Cupcake Construction Company about some cupcake matters.

The representative declined to talk on the record because the deal is still pending, but the family is one that has been in Lawrence for quite awhile and that folks will recognize.

"We really want to bring a candy store back to Downtown Lawrence," the representative said.

Downtown Lawrence certainly has some places where you can get some sweets — frozen yogurt, ice cream, cupcakes, and a chocolate shop to name a few — but it has been without the traditional candy store since Penny Annie's closed last year.

I think the new group will be ready to start talking about the next week.

• Speaking of mysteries, some of you have been wondering when the new four-lane section of U.S. Highway 59 will open. The Kansas Department of Transportation previously had said the multimillion-dollar project would open to traffic during the first week of October.

After about the fourth barricade I hit, I began to realize that the road perhaps was still closed. A spokeswoman with KDOT now tells me that the new stretch of highway is expected to open next week.

No word on what caused the delay, but crews continue to work on finishing final details such as lane markings, sign installation and other details. (Picking up busted barricades? In my defense, I had cupcake frosting on my glasses.)


50YearResident 5 years, 8 months ago

"So, in other words, even when adjusted for inflation, Lawrence retailers are on track to have their best year since the pre-recession days of 2008."

My reply. The dollar figures may be the highest since 2008, but it is all inflation and cost/price increases, not profits, that is making look like a good year. Profits are down. The economy has not recovered from the recession at all. Ask any retailer how his profit margins are. You can't post a rosie picture of recovery just before the elections because it isn't there

". The numbers in parentheses are the sales totals adjusted for inflation in 2012 dollars":

I doubt the (in parentheses figure) if it were available would not exceed 965 million for 2012.

LTownBaby 5 years, 8 months ago

Wow, Lawrencians are getting dumber and dumber! $1 billion worth of sales in 2012 adjusted for inflation is ($1 billion worth of sales in 2012). Did that help now that it is in parenthesis?

I'm thinking Chad is not making a plug for Obama with this piece, but who knows... I doubt Michelle would appreciate his love for sweets.

50YearResident 5 years, 8 months ago

You described yourself very nicely, you may want to bone up on your reading comprehension and study a little more math. Re-read the article to understand what is actually in parenthesis

itsalwayssunnyinlarry 5 years, 8 months ago

Billy vanilly has terrible, dry cupcakes. Bummed the better option will be gone

Stephanie Hull 5 years, 8 months ago

Have to say that the lemon one I got at Billy Vanilly recently was awesome, and the customer service was good too.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 8 months ago

In my experience, it's been the opposite. Cupcake Construction Company cupcakes are dry and crumbly if you choose not to have them filled. Billy Vanilly cupcakes are what I expect from a professional bakery.

Nikki May 5 years, 8 months ago

I always had great service at CCC. I really enjoyed talking to the different people in there. (And I need to bust out my frequent buyer card to get a free cupcake - I would go there daily if I had no negative repercussions.

Bridge 5 years, 8 months ago

I hope Hwy 59 will be open for Baldwin's Maple Leaf Festival. I think they could have had it done many months ago if they would have worked more during the mild winter we had.

hipgrrrrl 5 years, 8 months ago

While I have never eaten at CCC, the dead bugs that were always in their display window were quite off-putting. Does that have anything to do with their closing?

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