Retail ‘gaps’ send Marble Falls residents elsewhere

CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF

Marble Falls resident Barbara Valdez and her children, Gilbert, Matthew and Caylee, shop for school clothes and supplies at Burke's Outlet in Marble Falls. Valdez said she planned to take her family to Austin the following day because of the lack of selection in shoes, athletic wear and sales in town. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

Marble Falls resident Barbara Valdez and her children, Gilbert, Matthew and Caylee, shop for school clothes and supplies at Burke’s Outlet in Marble Falls. Valdez said she planned to take her family to Austin the following day because of the lack of selection in shoes, athletic wear and sales in town. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

MARBLE FALLS — A survey and shopping analysis have revealed local residents take their retail, restaurant and other service industry dollars outside Marble Falls, while tourists and residents from neighboring communities comprise the bulk of shoppers who contribute to city’s economy, officials say.

Marble Falls applies a 2-cent sales tax to taxable items. Of the money collected, 1 cent goes to the city’s general fund; a half-cent goes to the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp.; and the other half-cent goes toward reducing local property taxes, according to EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher.

According to the assessment from 2012 to 2014, the percentage of taxable spending by Marble Falls residents decreased from about 7.5 percent to 6.5 percent, he said.

“We need to figure out why people are leaving Marble Falls to shop elsewhere and do what we can to have those options available in Marble Falls,” Fletcher said. “We would sure like to see the dollar amount of local spending increase, and you can do that by increasing opportunities and reducing retail gaps in Marble Falls.”

Recent figures from the EDC and the American Community Survey revealed characteristics of shopping habits with variables including the source of sales-tax dollars and household incomes.

Marble Falls reports a population of about 6,100 residents, according to the EDC.

From August 2013 to August 2014, of the more than $354 million of total taxable spending, local taxable spending comprised about $23 million.

“That’s a drastically low number when we talk about the amount of sales tax generated in Marble Falls. (Sales tax figures are) not really coming so much from the local population as it is coming from people outside the area,” Fletcher said. “That’s why tourism is considered the most profitable export in the Marble Falls economy.”

Fletcher added that despite the decrease, the local average household income increased by about $700, or 1.5 percent, from 2011 to 2012.

“So there was more income, but it did not keep up with the pace of sales-tax growth,” he said. “We had more tourists coming in spending more money.”

Marble Falls resident Barbara Valdez said she has started shopping in Austin for clothing and other family needs.

“I love the town, but shopping is not the thing here. It’s hard to find clothes, especially for my 7-year-old. (Retailers) don’t have shoes, their sizes or they’re sold out,” said Valdez, who has three elementary school-aged children. “They play baseball and football, and we have to go to Austin to find athletic stuff.

“We need more selections and more sales because Austin has sales,” she added. “Walmart is kind of expensive, but you go to Austin, and you find name brands that are less expensive.”

Even though local residents like Valdez look elsewhere for bargains and selection, city officials have reported steady increases in overall sales-tax collections.

“We want our cake, and want to eat it, too,” Fletcher said. “We want Marble Falls residents to spend more of their money in Marble Falls, but we also want people in surrounding areas and throughout the state to spend more money here as well.”

Along with potentially expanding choices for local consumers, improving individual prosperity could motivate local residents to shop at home.

“We would love to have better jobs in Marble Falls. Right now, so much of our economy is driven by the service sector, retail and hospitality, and those are not very good paying jobs,” Fletcher said. “We would love to improve the quality of life of the citizens in the community by increasing wage levels.”

connie@thepicayune.com

10 Responses to “Retail ‘gaps’ send Marble Falls residents elsewhere”

  1. Roy says:

    I find it interesting that they claim folks are going elsewhere to spend their money. Yet if you were to look at MFs compared to Beecaves, Mfs has brought in more sales Tax money then a city with a Huge Mall and many of the majors retailers. So MFs must be doing something right. We have three big box stores. Walmart Home depot and Lowes. We now even have Two Liquor stores and those are two of the biggest producers of sales taxes.Unless this city brings in Industry type companies you probably will not see many more Higher paying jobs.

  2. scott says:

    What does that tell you when two of the biggest tax producers are liquor stores? Marble Falls needs more clothing and a sports store.

    • Beki says:

      Amen! Mfs has nothing in the way of shopping for clothes. Here it is “back to achool” and all we have is walmart or Bealls. Both fine but not much of a choice. We could use a Target or a Kohl’s or something more in that line. Give us choices and we will stay here. I know I’d much rather shop close to home but….

    • Roy says:

      What it tells me is that there are a lot of folks buying booze. I agree we need a sporting goods store. Gotta have good gear to go along with booze since its near hunting season.

  3. Jim Long says:

    This certainly shows what a wonderful and effective job the Economic Development Corp. is doing with our tax dollars.

    • Roy says:

      Jim I think you may be giving them to much praise.They have only lured a few companies here. The rest of whats coming here mostly likely came on their own accord.

  4. Terri says:

    The number ONE “gap” in Marble Falls is good restaurants! There is no fine dining at all, and little else except greasy or fried food, fast food, and Italian.

  5. Joy says:

    I don’t really believe we need “fine dining” in Marble Falls. We need local residents to support the restaurants that are here. Everyone seems to want their favorite restaurant (Luby’s, Appleby’s, whatever), but don’t want to support what is already here. A new place opens; people frequent it for a couple of months; then, start clamoring for some place new. I agree that we don’t have much choice in clothing or shoes. Try finding narrow shoe sizes in this town–not going to happen. The shops along Main Street are at the mercy of Walmart, which has cheaper products. People don’t want to shop on Main Street. For two years I tried to get Hobby Lobby interested in opening a store here. They are not interested unless they can service a town of 50,000 or more. This is probably why Kohl’s, Target and other stores won’t open here. I have pointed out to Hobby Lobby that there are more than 50,000 living in the area who could use their store–still no interest. I’d love to have a decent fabric store in Marble Falls; but, local residents won’t support one. I don’t know what the answer is; except, continue to support Austin, Fredericksburg, and Kerrville.

  6. Thank you all for your interest in this subject. There are many valid points here, but I wanted to clear up a few misconceptions and make a few additional points. First, there are no liquor stores among the top 25 sales tax generators in Marble Falls. With that said, liquor sales in Marble Falls are higher than what our retail trade area (approx. 66,000 people) should be able to support. This is one of two areas of surplus in our retail gap summary, the other being home improvement/building material suppliers. The other 50+ retail segments show a retail gap, meaning that our trade area (defined as those people who shop in MF at least a couple of times per week) could spend more of their money in Marble Falls instead of shopping elsewhere. When MF residents shop in Bee Cave, Georgetown, Cedar Park, etc., it helps those cities attract desired retail, while the relatively low population in the city of Marble Falls remains an obstacle for the types of retailers mentioned above. (By the way, Bee Cave does generate more sales tax than Marble Falls; they passed us in 2011 and increased the gap in 2012, but MF did decrease the margin a little bit in 2013.) My final point relates to business attraction: when it comes to retail recruitment, the Marble Falls EDC is very happy to provide any and all demographic and economic information we can in order to help a retail prospect with their decision to build in Marble Falls–just as we have done with several businesses over the last couple of years. In addition, we would act as a facilitator and advocate for any needs the business may have. Traditional incentives, such as job reimbursements or tax-related subsidies, would be reserved for employers that can help us increase wage levels in the community.

    If anyone has any questions or would like more information, please feel free to visit our web site (www.marblefallseconomy.com) or contact us directly–we would love to hear from you.

  7. Jean says:

    I’m a taller person, not that much taller but enough that it’s next to impossible to find anything for people of my height. I can find clothes at Walmart, but trying to find anything else in my size is almost impossible, therefore I am forced to go out of town. In this town if you are not “petite” or “average” you might just as well forget it. I would like to buy locally but cannot. A couple of the shops say they will order the item in my size, nice, but I don’t care to wait a couple of weeks before getting my purchase and then it might come in wrong size anyway. Unfortunately, I have also found that going to an out-of-town grocer the produce is usually fresher and more well taken care of than here. I hate driving that much but forced to do so.

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