The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center’s Division of Applied Research performed the study and will present it to local officials Jan. 17.
The study compared the Rome market to data from Thomasville, Cartersville and Decatur in Georgia; Asheville, N.C., Florence, Ala. and Columbia, Tenn. The retail markets within a 10-mile radius of a specific downtown location were analyzed in the study.
A surplus results when local sales are higher than traceable expenditures. Conversely, a shortage exits when local dollars appear to be going outside of the community, according to the study.
The most substantial finds for the Rome market include the fewest number of surplus sectors. The resulting 10 sectors where Rome showed gaps, or shortages, led the study team to conclude that “The Rome market has considerable potential.”
The three sectors where Rome has a surplus included health and personal care stores, general merchandise stores along with food service and drinking places.
The 10 sectors where Rome registered gaps according to the UGA study team, were motor vehicle and parts dealers, furniture and home furnishing stores, electronics and appliance stores, building material and garden equipment stores, food and beverage stores, gasoline stations, clothing and clothing accessories stores, sporting goods- hobby- book-music stores, and miscellaneous retailers.
The study projects an overall sales gap adding up to $116 million, which would translate into approximately $8 million in lost sales tax revenue.
Downtown Rome Development Authority Executive Director Ann Arnold said she feels like some of the food numbers are incorrect, and has asked the UGA team for additional specific data in that category. Rome’s fast food and catering sectors are showing a $19.1 million surplus, however the sit-down full service restaurants are showing a $5.5 million shortage.
“Given what’s now there, that’s a little difficult to believe,” said Gwen Hanks, director of the division of applied research. “I can’t really get behind the why, I’m just reporting what the data says.”
The management of the new Publix that is under construction at Fifth Avenue and Turner McCall Boulevard will undoubtedly be happy to hear that there is a $100.8 million gap or shortage in the supermarket category.
The study found a $6.2 million gap in furniture stores, $6.8 million shortage in clothing and accessories and a $9.4 million shortage in sporting goods.
On the other hand, the study found a $55.3 million surplus in the pharmacies and drug stores category. Rome’s automotive dealers showed a $21.7 million surplus, which could be indicative of what the study calls in-shopping, people from outside the 10-mile radius of downtown coming to Rome to buy their new automobiles.
Hanks said the study was chock full of quantitative data that would support recruiting efforts by local leaders who want to bring a specific retailer to town. “It’s a very good sound first-pass at what’s going on in the community,” Hanks said.
The full report will be presented at the Business Improvement District meeting Jan. 17 at the Brewhouse Music and Grill, 325 Broad St.