Report shows merchants’ ability to attract customers

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 17, 2008

Brookhaven’s development into a destination retail shoppingmecca is evident not only in sales tax numbers and physical growth,but is also showing up on paper in an economic measurement expertscall “pull factor.”

Pull factor is a ratio that is found by taking the per-capitaincome of a city and dividing it by the state’s per-capita income,said Mississippi Development Authority Regional Service AssetDevelopment Office Manager Trisha Webber. Brookhaven’s pull factorwas recently recalculated by analysts in a financial report calleda Limited Retail Leakage Report.

“The calculation is a simple way of analyzing the help of aretail sector to the population it serves,” she said.

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And Brookhaven’s retail sector is quite strong, officials said.While a 1.0 pull factor is considered healthy for most cities,Brookhaven’s pull factor based on retail sales dollars recorded inthe FY 2007 Mississippi State Tax Commission Annual Report is2.71.

“Part of the explanation for our increase in economic activityis fuel sales, but part of it is also due to our growing retailmarket,” said Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of CommerceExecutive Vice President Cliff Brumfield.

Pull factor totals from other communities were not available.However, given Brookhaven’s results, Brumfield expected them tocompare favorably to any in the state.

Individually, 11 segments of the retail market are assigned pullfactor values. Brookhaven’s 2.71 is the average of all thetotals.

Brumfield said Brookhaven’s pull factor in the auto industry is5.5. The city also had an impressive 4.8 pull factor in apparel andgeneral merchandise, with food and beverage at a 2.98 pullfactor.

Mayor Bob Massengill said the pull factor numbers, which areover 1.0 in every category except recreation and contracting, are apositive indicator that not only are visitors shopping inBrookhaven, but that area residents are shopping here.

“One of the things it does show is the fact that the people ofthe surrounding areas, and not just within the city limits, do shopin Brookhaven,” he said. “That’s extremely important to thecommunity because we’re trying to be the shining star of SouthwestMississippi. It is a positive thing to have people shopping inBrookhaven, because we’re trying to be an area destination.”

Webber said the lower numbers on the scale are not necessarilynegatives, but instead simply positives waiting to be made.

“The study also shows areas of opportunity for growth anddevelopment,” Webber said. “There are obvious opportunities inrecreation, contracting, and even some in miscellaneousservices.”

The city held a 0.13 pull factor in contracting. Recreation wasBrookhaven’s second-lowest area, with a .21 pull factor. Someexamples of what the study considers recreational include danceclubs, museums, zoos and collegiate sports, officials said.

Brumfield said the city’s goal of becoming a premiere retailcenter is becoming a reality, as Brookhaven has become extremelycompetitive in sales tax numbers.

“Brookhaven’s efforts to become a destination retail shoppingcenter are greatly materializing in 2008 as we’ve watched sales taxgreatly increase,” he said. “It’s quite a feat to bypass cities notonly like Oxford and Starkville, but Madison in retail sales.”

Meanwhile, the city continues to grow and bring in morebusinesses and retailers, Brumfield said. Part of that is theoverall beautification and development plans that are always inprogress under the leadership of the current city governmentadministration.

“The increased construction in recent years and happening now,along with the great attention placed on our downtown, have workedto put us in an enviable place in Southwest Mississippi,” hesaid.

But Brumfield also said the nationwide economy has causedseveral business closings in the area. But it still hasn’t stoppedgrowth, he said.

“Shoppers need to remember while you’re doing your holidayshopping that you’re important in making Brookhaven a retailpowerhouse, and it can be a real setback when those sales dollarsare lost,” he said.

Evidence of builders’ continuing faith in the Brookhaven economycan be seen in the construction around town, Brumfield said.

He cited Brookhaven Plaza, a $2 million strip mall currentlyunder construction at 973 Brookway Blvd. The project is almostfinished, with the shop areas in the strip planned to be built tothe specifications of whatever businesses will fill them.

Project Manager Alan Lajoie said the final inspection on thebuilding will be done Friday, and that his project is already infull compliance with building codes and guidelines. The complexitself is complete except the final cleanup, and its first tenant,Snap Fitness, should be in place by Oct. 24, he said.

“We’re finishing up the duct work today, and we’ll put in thesprinklers and finish the sheetrock, and we’ll paint and do theceiling and the lights this weekend,” Lajoie said Thursday.

That and other developments, such as the Bank of Franklin andHoliday Inn Express that are currently under way, are just someexamples of reasons Brookhaven is on the right track, Brumfieldsaid.

“Our momentum is steady and we can expect a dramatic increase inour sales numbers when we find better economic times,” Brumfieldsaid.