Carson residents shop elsewhere for clothes, but not cars | NevadaAppeal.com
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Carson residents shop elsewhere for clothes, but not cars

Jill Lufrano, Appeal Staff Writer

After years of study and statistical number-crunching, Carson City can officially say most residents are leaving town to buy the latest styles in shirts and shoes.

A study by regional economic researchers finds Carsonites have been crossing the border for years, spending three-fourths of the total amount of money spent on clothing and accessories elsewhere, most likely in Reno.

The reason may be that 15 percent of city residents think retail prices are higher in Carson than surrounding counties and 58 percent believe the city offered less selection, according to a survey of 400 residents in 2002.

“We did find that people who lived in Carson City but worked outside the city had a higher probability of shopping in Reno,” said Thomas Harris, director of the University Center for Economic Development at the Reno campus. “People like to do one-stop shopping. They don’t stop for a pair of shoes one place and a shirt in another.”

Reno, Sparks and Douglas County are getting most of the money spent by Carson residents on retail, but the Internet is also getting a fair share of the market lately, Harris said.

Harris and other researchers who compiled the study will present their findings to Carson City supervisors today. Supervisors will consider accepting the findings in three reports — an analysis of city socio-economic trends, labor force, economic base and retail trade; 2002 business activity report; and a downtown Carson city property inventory.

The city paid $30,000 for the study. Hundreds of staff hours were spent compiling data and researching the area since mid-2001, said Richard Bartholet, director of research development at the Small Business Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The study was completed a year ago, but city staff changes delayed it from being presented to supervisors until now, Bartholet said.

The study documents several economic trends up to 2002 and will be useful tools in attracting new business, retaining business and expanding markets, city officials said Wednesday. They city may look to update the information to reflect recent changes, City Manager Linda Ritter said.

“What I found (in the study) was both demographic and traffic studies indicate that we certainly are primed to be a location for a variety of national and regional retail firms to locate to this county,” said Joe McCarthy, city economic and redevelopment director.

With reports to show that city residents aren’t finding the clothes they want to buy in town, a clothing retailer might consider filling the need and build a store to the city, for instance.

Major changes in retail have occurred since the report was done with the relocation of Wal-Mart to Douglas County and the closure of Super Kmart. Even so, research shows Carson has lost retail dollars beginning in the mid-1990s, when Douglas County began developing its retail market, Harris said.

Harris said a “Wal-Mart phenomenon,” like the one Carson is dealing with after the mega-store moved across the border, is seen across the nation in rural areas. In past studies, communities located within a 30-mile range of new Wal-Mart stores quickly lose retail dollars as people are drawn to the store. The areas people are traveling from to buy at Wal-Mart tend to lose retail, Harris said.

Other trends identified in the retail leakage part of the report indicate Carson was losing 4 percent of local retail taxable sales in building materials, hardware and garden supplies, for a loss of 2,220 customers in the local trade. People from outside the city did come to Carson to buy food; however, the city lost some of those retail dollars with the opening of Wal-Mart in Douglas County.

The city is losing 55 percent of potential spending in taxable eating and drinking places, showing a sales gap of 30,480 customers, the report said.

Automotive sales was the one category that Carson held strong, pulling in dollars from several surrounding counties and probably reflecting the city’s role as a regional shopping area for cars, the report said.

City staff plans to meet with the Carson Area Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Nevada Development Authority and other groups to share information and make sure city leaders get information they need in the future for recruiting and keeping business, Ritter said.