Could brick-and-mortar stores in Gypsum really compete with online retailers? (editorial) | VailDaily.com

Could brick-and-mortar stores in Gypsum really compete with online retailers? (editorial)

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Our View

Travelers along Interstate 70 can catch glimpses of the Gypsum Costco store, which draws in customers from a broad regional base. The store may also be a catalyst for bringing other retailers to the community.

Is Gypsum a retail hot spot waiting to happen?

That was a conclusion of a town-sponsored study, conducted by The Retail Coach, a national research company. According to the study, the Gypsum market suffers from what experts call "leakage" — consumer spending and sales tax collections that could be kept in town.

The Retail Coach study found that Gypsum's leakage is substantial: More than $28 million in lost sales in clothing alone. Looked at in terms of just the town's 3 percent sales tax, that's $840,000 that could be going into the local government's coffers.

Sales tax is the life's blood for municipal governments in Colorado. That's what pays for everything from road repairs and police protection to town parks and other extras.

The good news for Gypsum and its residents is that the town collects sales taxes from both Costco and all of the retail operations at the Eagle County Regional Airport. That means a portion of the sale of every bag of dog food sold at the warehouse store, or every car rental paid for at the airport, goes back to the town for roads, parks and other projects.

Those collections are significant. Still, more retail spending in town would ultimately benefit residents.

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But adding to the town's sales tax base has always been a tricky proposition, and it promises to be even more so in today's economy.

According to a story published on cnbc.com in late December 2017, nearly 7,000 stores closed last year. That's more than double the number of stores that closed in 2016.

Those closures are due in large part to the rise of online shopping. Anyone who's been at the Gypsum Post Office's customer service counter on a Saturday morning sees the phenomenon in full effect.

While there aren't a lot of shopping options in Gypsum now, it's unclear whether new brick-and-mortar options could put a significant dent in the post office lines in town.

Still, there are items — particularly shoes and some clothing items — that people prefer to try on before they buy. Clothing could be an option. So could other stores that sell items people tend to want — or need — without a trip to Glenwood Springs or even an overnight delivery from an online retailer.

With all that in mind, some new retail options in Gypsum would be welcome. But Gypsum and its taxpayers should be cautious if asked to use public funds for much beyond a marketing campaign to lure new retailers to town.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.