Big retailers show positives in Harlingen

HARLINGEN — Economic development officials delivered an upbeat assessment on some of the largest retailers in the city.

Lyle Garza, commercial recruitment/retention manager and marketing director for the Harlingen Economic Development Corp., told the board yesterday that big retailers like Kohl’s, Target and those in Valle Vista Mall are doing better than comparable chain stores in Brownsville and McAllen.

“We’re finding (the Harlingen stores) are all very similar in how their sales are going over the last year,” Garza said. “They’re all showing positive trends, slight positive trends.

“They’re not going 10 percent over last year but they’re all showing increases every month,” he said. “And that’s positive when you compare them to their sister stores in Brownsville and McAllen.”

Looking at state sales tax reimbursements to Texas cities gives a rough estimate of the retail health of any given municipality.

For instance, April tax reimbursements for Harlingen were down slightly by 0.56 percent for the month. Brownsville, by contrast, was down 7.9 percent and McAllen showed a decline for the month of 8.5 percent.

Harlingen’s sales tax revenues are up 2.74 percent over the previous year, Brownsville is up 2.57 percent and McAllen has seen a decline of 4.57 percent.

The financial numbers of retailers in Brownsville and McAllen “are not as great as ours are,” Garza said.

“What this tells us, of course, is that we’re not impacted by the (peso-dollar exchange rate) as much as they are,” Garza said. Harlingen retailers “don’t have the peaks and the valleys that the other stores do closer to the border.”

Garza said some of the Harlingen’s biggest retailers, like Bass Pro Shops, also are trying new tactics to boost sales.

“I found it interesting that Bass Pro is going with a $10 discount for a purchase of over $40, which is what Kohl’s does so successfully” with Kohl’s Cash, Garza said. “And they’ve seen a lot of good customers coming back in and saying we want to redeem these $10 coupons, and they’re walking out with much more than that.”