Ponchatoula retail study shows room for growth
Contact: Rene Abadie
HAMMOND – With strong growth in population over the last decade, especially among young adults, the city of Ponchatoula and its surrounding area are poised for continued growth and prosperity, according to a retail study conducted by the Southeastern Louisiana University Business Research Center.
The study, prepared for the Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce and the City of Ponchatoula, was officially released Wednesday (Dec. 15) at the Ponchatoula City Hall Council Chambers. The study was conducted by economist Herb Holloway, Professor Abul Jamal of the Southeastern Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management and William Joubert, director of the Southeast Louisiana Business Center.
The study reviewed the demographics, employment patterns, earnings and commuting habits of residents of the city and its surrounding trade area.
Holloway noted how the city evolved from a forest and timber harvesting economy to one based on farming in the early and mid-20th century. Toward the end of the 20th century until present, Ponchatoula grew as a tourism destination. The Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival held every April is considered one of the largest festivals in the state, second only to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Additionally, the city’s historic downtown and numerous antique shops have become popular shopping attractions.
In the presentation, Holloway noted that the city had a 2009 estimated population of nearly 6,400, while the surrounding trade area includes approximately 16,000 residents.
“The city and trade area have both experienced strong population growth, upwards of 21 percent over the last decade, particularly among adults 25 to 34 years of age,” Holloway said.
According to the study, Ponchatoula has a relatively young population with an estimated median age of 32.3 years in 2010, compared to 34.7 for the trade area, 35.7 for Louisiana and 37.0 for the nation. The city’s largest single-year increase was in 2005-2006 following Hurricane Katrina, when Ponchatoula saw a 6.6 percent increase in population largely caused by the influx of new residents from south of Lake Pontchartrain. The surrounding trade area’s estimated population increased 20 percent from 1990 to 2000 and 21 percent from 2000 to 2010, growing from 11,175 in 1990 to 16,233 in 2010.
Holloway said the largest industries by employment for both the city and the trade area residents are healthcare/social assistance and retail trade, each of which employs 16 to 17 percent of residents. The next three largest employment sectors – with each employing about nine percent of residents – are manufacturing, construction, and accommodation and food services.
The study evaluated the trade area’s retail trade balance to analyze retail supply and demand at multiple levels using Claritas Inc.’s Retail Market Power Opportunity Gap report.
“The report indicates there are seven sectors in which Ponchatoula has a retail surplus,” Holloway explained. “These sectors ‘pull’ customers and spending from outside the trade area. They are selling more than is demanded by customers of the trade area alone.”
Those sectors include gasoline stations, motor vehicle and parts dealers, health and personal care stores, building material and garden equipment stores, general merchandise stores, foodservice and drinking places, and miscellaneous store retailers.
“Ponchatoula’s location next to I-55 has a definite impact on some of these categories, especially the gasoline stations and foodservice and drinking places sectors,” he added.
Holloway said six sectors show retail leakages ranging from about $3 million to more than $25 million, totaling $57.5 million of sales lost to businesses outside the area. These sectors include food and beverage stores, non-store retailers, clothing and clothing accessories stores, electronics and appliances stores, and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores.
“Some of these sectors may be opportunity areas for increased retail activity in Ponchatoula,” he added.
A complete copy of the report is available online at www.selu.edu/admin/sbrc/publications/.