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Normal Surges - Bloomington Flat In Retail Sales

Thu, 21 Nov 2013 16:17:54 CST
By: Charlie Schlenker

Bloomington retail sales for the first half of this year were not as bright as in 2012. Sales dropped just under 2% for the first six months of the year. Normal is up more than 7.4%. Justine Robinson, the City's Economic Development Coordinator, calls the decline part of the normal ebb and flow of the local economy. Last year Bloomington increased occupancy at all its major retail centers. She says this year Normal has taken its turn.

"They had White House Black Market, Francesca's, and others, bringing their occupancy rate at College Hills to 100%. They have a new development at the corner of College and Veterans. So, I think Normal really has a good momentum."

Robinson says after the huge increase in sales in 2012, it would be unreasonable to expect a large percentage increase in Bloomington. She says the city did not give back all the gains, though. 2013 sales so far this year are up more than 10% over the same period in 2011.

Robinson says manufacturing and the drinking and eating sectors saw eight to nine percent growth. The steepest decline came with a nearly 21% drop in Furniture and Household sales. Robinson attributes that drop to increased competition in East Peoria, Normal, and Springfield.

"HH Gregg in Springfield, Slumberland in Champaign, Big Lots and Costco, and others in the East Peoria area. So I think we are competing against other regional players who have more variety and also whose stores offer better financing opportunities. "

Robinson says the financing picture has changed and the Ashley Furniture Store in Bloomington has also come on line. City Finance Director Patti Lynn SIlva says the sales decline will make budgets even tighter, even though Bloomington kept about much of the gain from the year before. Robinson says the holidays won't greatly effect the total result for the year.

"National trends are indicating that there will be only a slight increase over last year, so we are not looking to really gain any significant ground."

Bloomington Results by sector.

General Merchandise: -2.06%
Lumber, Hardware & Building: -2.15%
Food: -2.14%
Automotive and Gas Stations: -2.32%
Drinking and Eating Places: +8.10%
Drugs & Miscellaneous Retail: -4.02%
Apparel: +1.52%
Agriculture and All Others: -2.78%
Furniture and Household: -20.84%
Manufacturers: +8.93%

Metro Area Results

East Peoria: +10.36%
Normal: +7.41%
Springfield: +4.08%
Forsyth: +1.28%
Champaign: +0.59%
Urbana: -0.35%
Rockford: -1.01%
Bloomington: -1.91%
Peoria: -6.31%
Decatur: -8.06%

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