Southeastern study eyes commercial potential of north shore
Contact: Christina Chapple
HAMMOND -- North shore businesses have the potential to significantly expand retail opportunities by capturing dollars being spent by residents outside the immediate area, a just-released study indicates.
The study, conducted by the Southeast Louisiana Business Center (SLBC) at Southeastern Louisiana University, found that north shore businesses pull in additional retail dollars from outside the region only in the areas of "Gasoline Stations" and "General Merchandise Stores," while three sectors -- "Foodservice and Drinking Places," "Motor Vehicle and Parts Dealers," and "Electronics and Appliance Stores" -- are essentially meeting area residents demands, but not drawing significant numbers of outside customers.
The eight remaining sectors "represent possible opportunities for new business or expansions of existing ones, if those businesses are able to capture the expenditures that north shore consumers are now spending outside the area," the student found.
Available online, the study, unveiled Thursday (Sept. 25) at the Northshore Business Conference in Slidell, should be a useful decision-making tool for business owners looking to locate or expand on the north shore, said Herb Holloway, research economist in the SLBC’s Business Research Center.
Holloway said the Business Research Center undertook the study in answer to Hurricane Katrina’s “immediate and dramatic” impact on the north shore – St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Livingston, St. Helena, and Washington parishes – where 12 percent of the state’s population and workforce reside.
The 3,300-square mile area has a history of fast growth, but its population jumped 4.1 percent in 2006 after the migration of Katrina-impacted businesses and residents.
“Recognizing how Katrina affected the area, we decided to take a look at the north shore economy and see where we stand now,” said Holloway, who conducted the study. “Our main targets are new businesses and existing business owners thinking about expanding. We wanted to see where the areas of opportunity are.”
The study also notes that half of the north shore’s residents commute to work outside the region, a factor that likely contributes to the rate of outside buying. Given the concerns and realities of increasing fuel costs, “If businesses relocate to the north shore to be closer to their employees, this may enhance retail growth on the north shore. Conversely, if employees move out of the north shore to be closer to their places of work, their retail expenditures will be lost,” the study said.
Compiling U.S. Census Bureau data and information from Claritas, Inc., which uses U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics on consumer buying power to develop reports on consumer spending patterns, the study concluded that the north shore region “has many attributes which make it appealing for future business development and economic growth.”
Not only does the area include three of the state’s fastest growing parishes – Tangipahoa, Livingston and St. Tammany – but education levels and household incomes are above state averages, and it is served by an extensive transportation infrastructure.
Analyzing retail trade in 13 sectors such as “Furniture and Home Furnishings” and “Clothing and Accessories Stores,” the study looked closely at where both area residents and outside consumers are shopping.
Consumer expenditures in the region total $8.3 billion and retail sales $7.1 billion, yielding, the study said, a retail “opportunity gap” of $1.2 billion. Two sectors showed surpluses and eleven had deficits (opportunity gaps), ranging from $8.9 million (Electronics and Appliance Stores) to $440 million (Food and Beverage Stores).
Other facts revealed in the study included:
▪ The north shore region accounts for 8 percent of Louisiana’s land area and 12 percent of the population (514,142 in 2007).
▪ After Hurricane Katrina, Tangipahoa Parish’s population grew by 6.5 percent in 2006, almost six times the parish’s 2000-2005 annual average growth rate. Livingston and St. Helena parishes also experienced population spikes in 2006 of 5.4 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively.
▪ North shore residents tend to be slightly younger and somewhat more educated than Louisiana residents in general, with an average age of 35.1 (35.4 for Louisiana) and 78.0 percent of residents holding a high school diploma (75.3 percent for the state).
▪ The north shore region in 2007 had an estimated median household income of $46,656, approximately 15.6 percent higher than the state median household income of $40,371.
▪ For 2007, an estimated 61.7 percent of north shore residents were in the labor force, compared to 60 percent for the state. The region’s 3.3 percent 2007 unemployment rate was almost a full percentage point below that of the state’s 4.2 percent.
▪ More than one-fourth of employed north shore residents work in sales and office occupations, and 19 percent are in professional or related occupations.
▪ Leading north shore industries by employment in 2006 were Retail Trade and Health Care and Social Assistance, which accounted for 14.6 percent and 13.7 percent of employed north shore residents, respectively. These two industries were significantly higher than the next highest industry – construction – which employed 9.6 percent of north shore residents.
For additional information or a copy of the Northshore Commerce Study, contact the Southeast Louisiana Business Center, 985-549-3199. The full report is available on the Business Research Center’s publications web page, www.selu.edu/admin/sbrc/publications.