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The Value of Retail

John SaltonstallRetail is an important piece of the economic puzzle and employment picture. It often takes a diminished role in the conversations about economies and life cycle employment; however, the numbers reveal that the retail trade sector of the economy is more than entry-level work. The retail trade sector of the economy is truly a dark horse carrying greater numbers and contributing well beyond its assumed capacity. Local retail businesses are a lifeblood to our economy and deserve our attention and support.

Flagstaff: A Retail Hub

The 65 square miles that make up the City of Flagstaff are fully able to host $660 million worth of retail, ranging from auto sales and home improvement sales, to food, clothing and general merchandise sales.   Did you know that actual total retail sales within the city limits are closer to $976 million, or 1.5 times the buying power of the community? (Source: Buxton SCOUT.) Why? Visitors and community members outside the city limits shop here and contribute much to that reality. Flagstaff is a regional retail hub, with a trade area of more than 200,000 people. Those retail sales dollars contributed $7,463,344 in sales tax revenue for the City of Flagstaff, equaling approximately 38 percent of the taxable revenues from all major categories from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013. And, these dollars help fund emergency services, infrastructure, roads, airport and other enhancements to the community.

Retail: An Over-Performer

Crunching the numbers, the true story about the retail trade sector begins to come to light. Flagstaff is a retail hub with an enormous trade area that meets the day-to-day needs of a local and regional population while also meeting the desires of that same population, as well as the desires of the nearly four million people who visit the region annually. Our local economy depends on retailers to meet the needs and desires of the community.

Of particular note, current industry numbers suggest that the Internet accounts for six percent of all retail sales nationally. That number does not distinguish between rural and urban shopping, as some data suggests rural areas may experience a greater percentage of online sales. And, many believe that number will continue to grow. As online sales do grow, it is reasonable to suggest that local retailers may be negatively impacted.

Local Choice

According to a recent Business Summary Report from Buxton, there are 39,000 people employed within the Flagstaff city limits, approximately 7,900 of whom are employed in the retail trade (source: SIC 52-59). This means 20 percent of all employees in the city limits facilitate 38 percent of the taxable revenues for the City of Flagstaff. The Flagstaff Mall, for example, employs between 800 and 1,100 people locally, depending upon the season. The employees at the Flagstaff Mall, Aspen Place, in the downtown district, and at all the other retail shops in town are aware of your choice to purchase online and they know that if they are to stay in business, they must win your business every time, whether by providing exceptional customer service or through unique product offerings. If one gives them the chance, one may be pleasantly surprised by the ability of local retailers to meet the individual’s needs, to special order, to have items delivered, to easily make returns, and to otherwise win business while providing satisfaction in experience and products. So, support Flagstaff’s retailers and shop local!

By John Saltonstall

For more information about how to help your retail business succeed in Flagstaff, contact John Saltonstall, business retention and expansion manager at 928-213-2966 or email:  jsaltonstall@flagstaffaz.gov.

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