Greeley clothing sales closing in on milestone
By Joshua Polson
The Greeley Tribune
Woven tightly in the fabric of solid growth in city retail sales taxes last year are some rare jewels not seen before.
One category is just short of amazing, given Greeley’s history.
Taxes from clothing sales are just about to push past $1 million — a milestone not yet seen in Greeley.
When jewelry stores are added into the mix, the category indeed surpassed $1 million in tax revenue for the first time in at least a decade.
Sales taxes are important to the city, which uses the money to fund government services. For 2014, the city collected $9 million more in sales taxes than it had expected, which likely means an extra windfall to help repair the city’s aging roads.
Greeley’s clothing sales have been growing steadily since 2009, which was the start of the Great Recession. Growth in apparel, alone, hit double digits in 2013 at 19.4 percent over the previous year.
Last year, when not one new clothing store opened during the year, sales tax revenue for the category grew 24 percent over 2013. Jewelry stores have consistently represented about 16 percent of the total category, which grew 23.6 percent over last year. The category includes clothing, shoes and jewelry stores.
The additions of newer stores at Centerplace, 47th Avenue and U.S. 34, and the Greeley Mall have helped push the category, keeping shoppers in town and sales tax leakage down.
“I do worry about leakage a great deal,” said Victoria Runkle, Greeley’s finance director, of residents’ previous propensity to shop outside of Greeley. “That’s one reason why we need a little more.”
As an example, she said, Panera Bread was one of those places where Greeley sales taxes were leaving town. Greeley’s Panera, which opened in December 2013, now is holding its own.
“I do know that Panera numbers indicate people are willing to stay here and shop,” Runkle said. “The more we have in our city, the better off we are. People don’t love to travel to get things.”
City leaders watched helplessly for years as tax dollars went to Loveland and Fort Collins, as clothes shoppers fled Greeley for the Foothills Fashion Mall, or in recent years, The Buckle, at Centerra — when there was a Buckle right here at the Greeley Mall.
But the Greeley Mall did a little educating last fall, at the University of Northern Colorado and Aims Community College welcome back events.
Students’ eyes were opened that many of their favorite brands were available right under their noses. Shawl Pryor, senior vice president of real estate for Moonbeam Capital Investments, which owns the mall, said in a previous interview that the mall has been making changes to help existing stores’ profits and to draw in new ones.
While the Greeley Mall’s marketing manager wasn’t allowed to comment to the press for this story, the city of Greeley notes that three stores in the mall last year collectively grew 31 percent over the previous year.
Mall management also is still negotiating leases on new shops, and possibly an anchor spot in the future.
Likewise, new shops have helped pull Greeley’s sales tax numbers up. The Boot Barn, and Rue 21, 4118 Centerplace Drive, Ste 806, both enjoyed their first full 12 months in Greeley last year, and both helped city numbers, Runkle reported.
Boot Barn, which sells western wear and work clothes, enjoyed the growth in oil and gas industry. But managers there are not so worried about the recent oil and gas slowdown.
“My commercial accounts are still coming in, and I’m still seeing our guys come in and buy work apparel,” said Sandy Luce, store manager of Greeley’s Boot Barn, 2651 29th St. “It’s still a heavy side of our business.”
Still, she said, if the store starts to see that slowdown at the cash register, the business is diversified and can handle it.
“We have a core clientele that has and always will buy Western apparel and boots,” Luce said. “We go back to our core, which has sustained the company for 30-plus years, and it will sustain whether work wear is a significant part of that or not.”
Two new clothing stores opened this year to supply the oil and gas industry, as well, including Frackin’ Hot FR and Safety Apparel, 1708 1st Ave., and Whiteside’s Boots, Western & Work Wear, 2017 2nd Ave., but their numbers won’t be realized until this year.
Officials are still banking on good numbers, but they also know what downturns look like.
“I’m nervous more for the community that got really dependent, and really enjoyed the perks with the sale tax increases, and increases in business and restaurants,” Luce said. “I’m nervous more for the whole community than just me.”
Now that Greeley has surpassed the magic 100,000 population market, that acts as a trigger for other national brands to look the city’s way, Runkle said.
And that may mean more to come.
Polson, J. (2014, February 27). Greeley clothing sales closing is on milestone. The Greeley Tribune. (March 9, 2015). http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/15214378-113/greeley-clothing-sales-closing-in-on-milestone