City gets sales tax boost from Cabela’s
Even before Cabela’s opened at Mesa Mall, 27-year-old George Fry of Fruita dropped $1,200 buying boat equipment at the store. After learning of the store’s late May opening, he ordered equipment to be delivered to the store for him to pick up.
Fry estimates he shops at the store about once a month, and late last week he was scouring the store’s racks of used guns for a rifle for his girlfriend to use for hunting.
“I don’t even make it into the mall,” Fry said about shopping exclusively at Cabela’s. “Most of the time I’m only spending $50 per trip. I’d be broke if I came in here more often.”
There’s plenty of outdoor sporting and hunting equipment to lure Fry to Mesa Mall’s newest store. And apparently Fry is not alone in his shopping habits.
While city officials cannot disclose the exact amount of sales tax collections from separate stores in Mesa Mall, sales tax collections at the mall were up in the second quarter, one of the few positive signs of recovery in citywide collections.
There’s more than a hunch and some verification from Cabela’s officials that the shiny new retailer is drawing customers in droves.
“We can’t say specifically (about individual store sales tax collections) but we can look at the numbers and say, ‘Hmm, what was new in Mesa Mall in the second quarter?’ There’s no doubt Cabela’s has had an economic impact,” said Jodi Romero, Grand Junction’s Financial Operations Manager.
In the second quarter this year, which includes sales taxes for the months of April, May and June, collections at Mesa Mall topped collections during the same time last year. That revenue was 1 percent, or about $10,000, greater than the same time period last year.
Apart from Mesa Mall, the only other areas of improving sales tax collections in the second quarter were in automobile and camper sales, at 5.3 percent and in sales that cannot be defined by a storefront, such as services provided by Xcel and the Department of Motor Vehicles. That sector experienced a 21.4 percent increase in tax revenue.
If sales at Cabela’s tipped the scales, it must have been a robust opening. The store opened its doors May 20, and collections to be included in the second quarter reports would have been limited to its first 11 days, through May 31.
During that time, Cabela’s launched a 12-day grand opening, giving away thousands of dollars in prizes, and it was so busy, “you couldn’t stand where I’m standing now,” Cabela’s employee Brian Rumbaugh said while standing in an aisle of the gun department.
City officials are eager to see whether the trend continues, and they hope to get a better sense later this week after the release of sales tax revenues for June, and again after hunting season.
Cabela’s spokesman John Castillo said the store is attracting customers from around the Western Slope and from eastern Utah. The next closest Cabela’s is in Lehi, Utah.
While the store’s sales numbers are propriety information, the Grand Junction store’s sales have been phenomenal, he said.
“Certainly this Grand Junction store in the short time it’s been open has performed very well,” Castillo said. “We’re enjoying it. We hope it continues.”
Mark Sutton, a retail events coordinator for Grand Junction’s Cabela’s, said he has been told by staff at neighboring the neighboring Wendy’s restaurant, 2430 Highway 6&50, that sales have increased 20 percent there, and the restaurant hired another employee after Cabela’s opened its doors.
Whether traffic from Cabela’s is spurring sales at other stores in Mesa Mall is a little harder to gauge.
Culinary Corner sits just inside the mall down from Cabela’s mall exit.
Co-owner Jackie Laumann said with the opening of Cabela’s, traffic has increased in the mall’s corridors, though sales increases at her store are only slightly higher than last year.
“Husbands and wives come in. Husbands go away. Wives stay,” she said.
Laumann said she hopes business will increase with the upcoming holidays and Cabela’s long-term presence.
“I wish there was more business,” Laumann said. “It will get there.”