Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back to School, Forward to Pullman?

A National Retail Federation study released yesterday shows that back to school spending per college student this fall is estimated at $956.93, up 9% from last year’s $880.52.

How is Pullman poised to capture the financial windfall from WSU students's spending? Not very well, unfortunately.

The NRF study found that laptops, digital cameras, iPhones, and cell phones will be big sellers again this year.

Let's see, laptops in Pullman? Maybe Radio Shack can order you one. Does The Bookie still carry Apples? Bascially, you're out of luck.

Digital cameras? ShopKo has a few. Maybe Rite Aid.

iPhones? Forget it. Not even in Moscow.

Cell phones? We do have Sprint and Unicel stores and a new Verizon store.

So in other words, slim pickings on electronics.

The NRF says other essentials for college students include shoes and school supplies such as notebooks, folders and pencils.

Shoes? Again, ShopKo and Rite Aid, if you're not real picky. School supplies? ShopKo, Rite Aid and the two grocery stores have some, but not a huge selection. The Bookie and Crimson and Gray obviously have some as well.

Again, shoes and office supplies are not Pullman's forte.

The NRF says that the large majority (57.2%) of students and their families will be shopping at college bookstores, while others will head to discounters (51.5%), department stores (41.8%), office supply stores (35.6%), clothing stores (34.3%) and electronics stores (20.9%).

College bookstores? Well, we do have three of those (The Bookie, The Bookie Too, and Crimson and Gray). Discounters? One small one (ShopKo). Department stores? Long gone. Office supply stores? Nope. Clothing stores? A couple specialty women's clothing boutiques downtown. Electronic stores? Again, one tiny store (Radio Shack).

So if you had several hundred million dollars to invest in Pullman, whose population is 70% college students, what would you build?

Here's my personal list:
A Wal-Mart Supercenter is a no-brainer. As the survey showed, over half of students and their families shop at discounters. And why not, as college is getting more and more expensive?

I would also return JC Penney to Pullman.

Between WSU and SEL, Pullman desperately needs its own specialty office supply store. Maybe Office Max, as Office Depot and Staples are in Moscow, but it doesn't really matter.

Old Navy would have been my first choice for a clothing store in Pullman, but Moscow already snagged that. My next choice would be something like American Eagle, The Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch or its sister store, Hollister.

As far as electronics go, a Best Buy would be my personal choice, but I would settle for Circuit City. Again, a desperate need, not just in Pullman but for the entire Quad Cities as well. I would build one of those right after Wal-Mart was finished (as Wal-Mart has a little of everything listed above).

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