-Although Lamar County's lure as a shopping
Mecca for surrounding counties has slipped in recent years, it still
enjoys the second highest "retail pull factor" in the state,
a new study shows.
A 12-year analysis of Forrest and Lamar Counties'
retail pull factors (RPF), the measures that indicate the extant
to which a local economy serves as a retail trade center, show that
Lamar County has the second highest RPF rating in the state, second
only to Tunica County.
Conducted by Dr. Charles Cartee, a finance and real
estate professor from The University of Southern Mississippi's College
of Business, the study examined retail and personal income data
supplied by the Mississippi State Tax Commission and the Bureau
of Economic Analysis from the period 1990-2002.
While both counties have maintained a consistent overall
retail growth pattern for the 1990-2002 period, the data indicate
that Lamar County has increased it retail pull strength as compared
to Forrest County over the past few years. The study further indicates
that Lamar County retail sales are becoming an increasing portion
of the combined sales of the two counties.
Also, based on the low retail pull factors of most
surrounding counties, Cartee said it would appear that the Forrest-Lamar
area has remained a draw for these counties, which tend to drive
up the high RPFs calculated for Forrest and Lamar County.
Although similar studies have been done, Cartee said
he wanted to examine numbers affecting Forrest and Lamar over a
"I ran across a 2-3 year study at the state level,
and thought it would be interesting to go back at least a decade
and look at the numbers. A one or two year observation doesn't really
tell you that much," Cartee said.
Calculating a county's RPF factor is made possible
using a simple formula: the ratio of a county's retail sales as
a percent of its personal income, which is then divided by the ratio
of the state's total retail sales as a percent of the state's personal
income. The state ratio serves as the baseline case, which is then
divided into each county's ratio.
An RPF greater than one indicates that the county
is serving as a retail trade center and is drawing shoppers and
their dollars to the county from outside its area. An RPF less than
one would indicate that residents of that county are shopping outside
the county for certain goods and services.
Of the seven counties surrounding Lamar and Forrest
- Perry, Stone, Pearl River, Marion, Jefferson Davis, Covington
and Jones - only two of them, Marion and Jones, had RPF scores higher
than one (1.09 each). The other five counties ranged from .40 in
Perry County to .77 in Pearl River, indicating that a significant
amount of retail sales activity is being supplied to these counties
by other areas. Based on the high RPFs in Forrest and Lamar and
the relatively low scores in the seven surrounding counties, it
would appear that Forrest and Lamar are providing and absorbing
a significant portion of the surrounding retail activity.
In the early 90s, the retail pull factor for Lamar
County was below 1, meaning shoppers were going outside of the county
to buy goods and services. That changed in 1994, when the RPF exceeded
one for the first time, then jumped from 1.05 to 1.49 in 1995. It
increased even more during 1995-96, moving to 1.79, the highest
point in the 12-year analysis. It ranged from 1.61 to 1.70 during
1997-2000, but dropped to 1.54 in 2001-02.
"The strength of that pull has declined, but
keeping things in perspective, it's still the second highest in
the state," Cartee said.
An analysis of Forrest County showed a strong retail
pull of 1.36 in 1990, compared to Lamar's .80 for the same year.
From 1990-95, Forrest County's RPFs ranged from 1.30 to 1.38, but
then dropped to 1.15 in 1996. Since 1997-2002, those numbers have
ranged from 1.19 to 1.23.
Of interest, Cartee said, is the fact that when the
RPF in Forrest County made its largest one-year drop from 1.30 to
1.15 between 1995 and 1996, Lamar County saw its largest one-year
increase moving from 1.49 to 1.79, the highest in the 1990-2002
"Needless to say, the dramatic increases in Lamar
County's RPFs versus the decline and leveling off of Forrest County's
RPFs would seem to coincide with the growth of the Hattiesburg city
limits into Lamar County and the increasing retail development activity
along the Hardy Street-U.S. Highway 98 corridor west of Interstate
59," Cartee said.
Although Lamar County's retail pull has diminished
somewhat over the past five years, some do not expect that to last.
"I think we're going to see within the next year
those numbers go upward, with developments like New Pointe, Target,
and other projects in the works in Lamar County," said Kelly
Thornton, director of public relations for Mac's Construction, which
oversaw the development of New Pointe Shopping Center in Lamar County.
"We have people coming from all over, Marion
County, Jeff Davis, even Jones County, who are looking for unique
places to shop. People are tired of going to the mall all of the
time; they want specialty stores, something different.
"I overheard one customer shopping at New Pointe
who said she felt like she was in another state. That's a good response,"
Cartee said he thinks the reams of data he collected
and analyzed for his historical study could be useful for future
developers and economic planners. Once his study is published, Cartee
said he intends to make his data available to the Area Development
Partnership in Hattiesburg.