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Survey highlights business opportunities

Despite a distinct downturn in the economy, opportunities abound, according to a report conducted by Nielsen for the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation.

If the name sounds familiar, it is because it is the Nielsen that for decades has conducted surveys of the television viewing habits of Americans, then rates the popularity of programs watched.

The report, generated late last month, looked at the demand (consumer expenditures) relative to local sales and inventory, generating a so-called “opportunity gap” — with sales and inventory less than demand, the implication being that an opportunity exists for potential businesses to meet those demands.

Using census data and their own consumer surveys, Nielsen generated demand vs. sales numbers within a 20, 25 and 30 mile radius from the corner of Lewis and Fourth Streets.

For the purpose of including Archuleta County in with data specific to the Town of Pagosa Springs, this article will use information generated for the 30-mile radius in 2010.

“This report will help us target some very specific retail opportunities,” said CDC Executive Director Steve Vassallo, adding that the information, “will play a prominent role on the website.”

Vassallo was referring to the CDC’s new website, due for launch at the first of the year.

In the report, several key retail sectors were noted for the extent of “retail leakage” — dollars being spent outside the county to meet consumer demand. Among those, home electronics was a primary sector in which consumer demand was not being met within the county. According to the report, Archuleta County residents had spent $4,305,850 on home electronics (televisions, stereos, computers, etc.), but only spent $644,645 of that within the county, leaving a $3,661,205 gap.

Presumably, that gap is an opportunity for a retail business to meet the demands of local consumers; the report indicated several other sectors where, if new businesses looked at the reported gap as an opportunity to meet local demands, would stem the flow of revenue leakage in the county.

Considering the controversy surrounding the location of a Big Box store in the town or county, the numbers representing general merchandise, apparel, furniture and other (GAFO) presents a compelling argument for Big Box placement. At a 20-mile radius, that retail leakage amounts to $21,179,400; with $60,927,010 having been spent for GAFO goods, but only $35,394,528 of those demands met locally within a 30-mile radius, the demand-to-sales gap is $25,532,482.

Other substantial gaps for industry sectors includes automotive dealers ($32,953,734), as well as parts and supplies ($1,123,189), pharmacies and drug stores ($4,551,591), shoe stores ($1,480,510), sporting goods, hobby, book, music stores ($2,514,369), office supplies and stationery ($1,264,611) and food service and drinking places ($3,268,244).

Some of those numbers should come as no surprise for local consumers: anyone in Pagosa Country who has had to wait for delivery of shoes or a part, or has had an immediate need for bulk office supplies, most likely plans for a trip to Durango or Farmington. And although the restaurant business appears to be saturated in Archuleta County, few would argue that an inexpensive chain restaurant could fill in the gap for an inexpensive family night out for dinner.

Industry sectors that have local saturation — revenues that are positive relative to local sales and demand — are building materials and gardening supplies ($20,405,051, with building materials making up the bulk of that), food and beverage stores (with grocery stores at $7,882,428 and convenience stores at $5,914,768) while local liquor stores meet the demands of local consumers to the tune of $13,168,554. Stores for women’s apparel meet demands to the amount of $3,483,434 while jewelry stores outstrip demand by $3,483,434. Drinking places quench the thirsts of local imbibers to the amount of $1,531,335.

In interpreting the last set of numbers, it should be noted that, with building materials, local demand has fallen as the construction industry has ground to a veritable standstill, leaving local suppliers with excess inventory. On the other hand, the positive gap numbers for women’s apparel, jewelry and drinking establishments most likely reflect goods and services provided to visitors as well as local consumers.

While the report most likely affirms the gripes of many local residents as far the lack of availability for certain goods or services, Vassallo and the CDC see the results as a way to encourage new businesses to fill in the gaps identified by the Nielsen survey.

“We’ll be targeting those areas with the most retail leakage in the near future,” Vassallo said. “I think electronics is an opportunity to make some inroads in the retail sector.”

jim@pagosasun.com