Grass Valley outlines steps to keep retail dollars |

Grass Valley outlines steps to keep retail dollars

With the results of a $7,500 study of Grass Valley residents’ spending preferences in hand, the town’s city council directed municipal staff Tuesday to pursue a litany of actions aimed at plugging retail leakage gaps estimated to total $200 million spent in other areas annually.

Among those directives is a plan to entice Kmart and JC Penney to beef up their Grass Valley locations, which are basically the town’s only big box stores.

“Unanimously, everybody surveyed said that JC Penney and Kmart are not providing that kind of merchandise they want,” said Audrey Taylor, president and CEO of Chabin Concepts, the Chico firm that facilitated the survey of more than 600 Grass Valley residents and three focus groups

“There is a gap there, and if they aren’t providing it, the consumer is going to go somewhere else,” Taylor said.

A 2011 analysis of credit purchases linked to Grass Valley addresses found that consumers spend $200 million annually in neighboring communities such as Roseville, Auburn and Sacramento.

“I know the city has reached out (unsuccessfully to) Kmart and JC Penney,” Taylor said. “Our suggestion is to keep trying, maybe try some different avenues.”

When Councilman Howard Levine asked for suggestions on alternatives to entice those stores to listen to the city, Taylor was unable to provide options, noting that she has worked with other communities with similar problems with both stores.

Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout pointed out that as Grass Valley’s only major retailers, JC Penny and Kmart lack competition and are regularly surpassing their own sales goals and, therefore, are not inclined to see the city’s lost-retail plight.

Council also directed staff — namely Economic Development Coordinator Jeri Amendola — to ensure local business are made aware of the results of Chabin’s survey results, especially its nearly 20 pages of comments from responders.

“There was also a lot of comments about why they didn’t shop here, and that is good for the businesses to know about,” Taylor said.

Another directive of the council was to reach out to various agencies to help best employ the survey results and collaboratively foster economic development — agencies such as the Small Business Development Center, the Economic Resource Council, the United States Department of Agriculture’s rural development arm and the Economic Development Administration.

“There is no good in economic development sitting at my desk,” Amendola said. “It requires me to go out and be collaborative to meet and talk.”

Swarthout also suggested that staff coordinate an economic development strategy session that would work toward crafting some sort of economic policy for the city, which Amendola said would better enable the city to qualify for grants.

One thing the Chabin study did not mention was the lack of parking in the downtown historic district, said Lillie Piland, co-owner of Yuba Blue.

“I think it is important to the convenience factor of shopping downtown,” she said. “If they can’t find a parking spot, they aren’t going to stay.”

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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