Spokane Journal of Business

Retail sector hopeful for sales growth

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Both retail sales and lease activity are expected to show moderate increases next year, although continued growth in consumer spending in 2013 will rely heavily on avoiding the fiscal cliff, experts say.

Bryn West, general manager for River Park Square, says that the downtown retail center is seeing sales growth of almost 10 percent for the holidays. The National Retail Federation projected retail sales to increase 4.1 percent during the fourth quarter. West says the fourth quarter has a major impact on the sales total for the year, as October through December is the busiest time for the mall.

Next year, River Park Square expects to add several new stores. West says there is one confirmed addition, and several others that are tentative. West declined to disclose the store names.

She says the addition of new stores and strong sales so far this quarter lead her to believe River Park Square will beat the national sales average next year.

Chris Bell, associate broker for NAI Black, the Spokane-based commercial real estate company, says he's seeing more retail least activity and interest, particularly along Division Street and near the Spokane Valley Mall, as well as in other high-traffic areas. He says he's seeing more retailers focus on available, empty space rather than on constructing buildings.

Bell says he also has noticed an increase in discretionary spending, and more boutiques are starting to open up.

"It's not necessarily the consumer durables or stuff people have to have," he says.

Marshall Clark, president of Clark Pacific Real Estate Co. based here, says there has been noticeable retail lease activity this year. He says there are a number of national chain stores looking to open in Spokane along Division and on the South Hill next year.

Clark projects that next year will be better for retail activity here than this year has been. Retail activity was up this year over 2011, but still struggled, he says, adding that state-operated liquor stores that closed after Initiative 1183 was enacted earlier this year, privatizing liquor sales, left a lot of empty retail space.

"We've had a lot of closures, and I think it'll slowly improve," Clark says.

Curt Kinghorn, owner of Runners Soul Spokane, says if the fiscal cliff can be avoided, he's confident small businesses will see moderate increases in sales next year.

"If (the economy) comes back for some, it's going to come back for everyone," Kinghorn says.

Runners Soul, a specialty running shoe store, has been located at 221 N. Wall downtown for 14 years, Kinghorn says. He opened a second store near Whitworth University, on Spokane's North Side, more than a year ago. He says both stores have seen steady increases in sales this year compared with last year, and he expects moderate growth in sales again next year.

He says certain businesses that deal in specialty products will feel the impact of the fiscal cliff more than others, if it's not averted, as people begin to cut back on spending.

"A bad economy affects us less than most retail," Kinghorn says, adding people may trade in their gym membership in exchange for a new pair of running shoes. "I wouldn't anticipate a big decrease, but I think things may go down slightly simply because people are taking care of what they have."

—Jessica Valencia

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