New Report Details Austin's Retail Performance

Created: 06/03/2014 11:00 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- As the American economy continues its slow climb out of the recession, analysts often look to retail sales to judge progress and consumer confidence.

And new data shows the Austin area is going strong, but some sectors are growing faster than others.

According to a new survey conducted by the University of Minnesota, the Austin area is seeing noticeable improvements in the overall retail market.

The most recent data available shows that in 2012, Austin retail sales topped $385 million, a 5.5 percent increase over 2011.

Analysts said building materials have taken the biggest hit in recent years, dropping 15.24 percent from 2009 to 2012.

But the sector called “miscellaneous retail” saw the biggest growth, increasing 412.20 percent during that same time period.

Two Bears Trading Post in the Oakdale Mall sells everything from knives to leather and bead work, but the owner said things haven't been as good as the survey may suggest.

"I think we still have some building to do to be where we were at before the recession,” said owner Diana Ross. “But it's slowly increasing I think."

That “miscellaneous retail” category also includes things like office supplies, and the loss of Staples, which closed last month, will likely hurt those numbers in years to come.

But on the other hand, the arrival of retailer Runnings will likely spur growth yet again.

The survey also showed clothing sales have remained strong, and Gypsy K Consignments opened earlier this year after the owner saw an opportunity in the market.

"Consignment stores are kind of the new thing, kind of the new trend,” owner Katelyn Kehret said. “Things have been picking up. I see a lot more familiar faces that are coming back, and it's always nice to see people who come back."

Retailers said the key in every sector is just to keep shoppers close to home.

"Hopefully people stick around their home towns and shop because it does help all retail stores,” Ross said.

The study showed that while 82 percent of purchases in Mower County are made in Austin, the city performs worse than Albert Lea, Owatonna, and Winona when it comes to pulling in shoppers from outside the local area.