City, retailers hopeful

Published 7:02 pm Thursday, November 26, 2009

Those searching for early Christmas specials, discounts and those “must get” gifts this season are more and more finding them in Suffolk.

With the kickoff of the holiday shopping season today, Suffolk is positioned to have one of the strongest retail seasons, thanks to what city leaders are touting as significant business growth in the past year.

“I would say that we are extremely optimistic about the upcoming shopping season,” Kevin Hughes, Suffolk Economic Development director, said. “Based on the amount of new retail space that has opened, we have the potential for a great season.”

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Hughes said that in 2008 Suffolk saw more than 234,000 square feet of new retail space open, tremendously expanding the city’s retail tax base.

Additionally, he said, there is an improving outlook on the economy amongst a number of area retailers.

“This is merely anecdotal, but when we go out and talk to business leaders, more and more are optimistic about their business and the months ahead,” Hughes said. “That is a much different story than we were hearing last year.”

According to the City of Suffolk’s Profile and Statistical Digest, released in January, Suffolk is experiencing retail growth a much faster pace than the rest of the Hampton Roads area.

Between 2000 and 2007, Suffolk reported annualized retail sales growth of 9 percent, far and above the 4.6-percent average for the rest of Hampton Roads. According to the report, Portsmouth was second to Suffolk with an increase of 5.5 percent.