Raleigh, N.C. — Downtown Raleigh needs a more diverse shopping district to attract more shoppers, according to a new city study that claims downtown merchants are missing out on $32 million in consumer spending.
Kris Larson, a senior planner at Raleigh's Urban Design Center who authored the study, said shoppers are spending as much as $32 million elsewhere that could be spent downtown if the retail mix in the central business district was updated.
"This is discretionary spending, (things) that they buy every day – stuff like food, stuff like a hairbrush, stuff like shampoo. Stuff they're going to buy somewhere versus the retail mix of downtown and what that's projected to generate in terms of revenue," Larson said.
"I would love to see a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe's or some kind of grocery store come in – an anchor store down here," said Tasha Holden, manager of Eye Care Center on Fayetteville Street. "There's not a lot, especially on this street."
Danny Nesrallah, who owns America's Pita Grill on Fayetteville Street, said he's skeptical downtown can succeed without changes.
"We opened the street for parking, right? Did we not? Nothing's happening. I've gotten $365 in tickets. I own a business on the mall. There are too many issues and too many things that were overlooked," Nesrallah said. "(We need) anything that's going to draw people down here on weekends. Come Saturday or Sunday, it's a ghost town."
Making downtown a shopping hub has failed before, but the city is working with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance to attract a more diverse group of retailers to the area.
"We go back to the late 1700s as a governmental town, (but) people didn't live in governmental buildings," Larson said. "Now, we've got this influx of 3,000 units. People moving back to downtown, that creates a lot of demand."
"We're excited about what's happening down here," Holden said. "I think Raleigh's ready for it. I think we need it."