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Retail: Signs point to steady sales in 2010

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The U.S. retail sector is poised for modest growth in 2010, and in some areas of Springfield, there are indications that retailers are holding their own.

The National Retail Federation in January released its forecast for the year, which projects a 2.5 percent sales bump for 2010, excluding vehicles and gas station and restaurant sales.

By comparison, in 2009, U.S. retail sales dropped by 2.5 percent, according to NRF’s Retail Sales Outlook.

“As we continue to see signs of improvement throughout the U.S. economy in 2010, overall sentiment will begin to lift, making way for slight increases in consumer spending,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells, in a news release.
“While we still expect shoppers to be frugal with their discretionary spending, retailers will soon be able to reap the benefits of leaner, smarter inventories and a year and a half of pent-up consumer demand.”

Though some retailers didn’t survive the economic turmoil, others are throwing their hats in the proverbial ring. Last year brought the closures of Circuit City, and former Battlefield mall tenants Steve & Barry’s and Whitehall Jewellers, with all three liquidating and closing all stores, according to previous Springfield Business Journal coverage. And Executive Menswear, 1626 E. Republic Road, has closed, according to

On the flip side, there are some additions to Springfield’s retail scene, including Johnny Mac’s Sporting Goods Store Inc., which opened Jan. 2 at 3500 S. Glenstone Ave., in 20,000 square feet previously housed by Office Max. St. Louis-based Johnny Mac’s has seven stores, and only the stores in Springfield and Lansing, Mich., are outside the St. Louis metro area. A Rawlings factory test sale preceded the company’s expansion into Springfield, according to past SBJ coverage.

Battlefield Mall Manager Erik Fjeseth said that although he can’t disclose occupancy rates for Springfield’s flagship retail site, there are new tenants on the way, including MC Sports and Apricot Lane, which also has a store at Branson Landing. Both are expected to open during the first quarter, he said.

“We’ll have some more this year, but we’re not ready to make any announcements,” Fjeseth added.

Events at the mall, such as a Severe Weather Exposition March 6 and the 2010 Backyard Bash in August, are part of ongoing efforts to bring traffic to retailers on site.

“We have partnerships with the American Cancer Society, and there’s a whole host of events that we’re going to have through the second quarter and the third quarter,” Fjeseth said. “Then of course, we generally have Santa and all that during the fourth quarter.”

While retail’s reach extends throughout Springfield, it is particularly important downtown, where sales tax revenues are even year-to-date with 2009, according to Rusty Worley, executive director of downtown advocacy group Urban Districts Alliance.

“We’re pleased to be even, given comparisons with the city, county and state. All of those show decreases,” he said.

Retail represented about 17 percent, or $3.7 million, of downtown’s $22.4 million sales tax base for the six months that ended Dec. 31, Worley said, noting that restaurant and pub sales are not included in that figure.

Worley pinpoints a couple of key growth areas downtown, such as Walnut Street, with retailers including Chic Chick, Ella Weiss, Staxx and Envy.

“There’s a lot of choices for women’s apparel through there,” he said. Another key corridor is on Campbell Avenue, where retailers include Global Fayre, Springfield Hot Glass and Ampersand.

“We’re seeing more people carrying shopping bags downtown,” Worley said.

He noted that retail is typically one of the last puzzle pieces in urban revitalization. “You typically have arts and entertainment take a lead, loft development, office, and then retail follow those beds and those desks,” he said.

Key projects Worley expects to fuel downtown retail growth are the Heer’s building, which he said would add more than 100 area residents; Wheeler’s Lofts, which will bring a dozen condominiums and a Price Cutter grocery store on line; and continued development of College Station, where developer Scott Tillman is getting close to announcing a first tenant, according to a Springfield News-Leader report.

“It will be good to have new uses and new people taking advantage of that great space there,” Worley said.[[In-content Ad]]


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