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Durham Merchants Look Outside City Limits For Retail Revenue

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DURHAM — InDurham, the problem with shopping has less to do with heavy traffic and more to do with the lack of it.

Every time someone spends money at a store in Durham, the city gets part of the sales tax to help fund services.

Durham is not enjoying the same kind of boom that hit Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro, and merchants are looking toward out-of-towners to bring more retail revenue to the Bull City.

Michele Duncan drove 45 minutes from Franklin County to do her Christmas shopping at Durham's Northgate Mall.

"I really like this mall a lot. It's quieter. I know all the stores. My husband works in Durham, and we come up and have lunch with him and shop here," said Duncan.

Local merchants want to attract more customers like the Duncans from rural towns. Durham's retail sales revenues are below the state average. The county trails behind other metro areas like Forsyth, Guilford, Wake and Mecklenburg counties.

Those numbers do not surprise Amanda McKeithan who says it has been a slow holiday season at South Square Mall.

"At least over the weekend, I'm hoping sales will be better," said McKeithan.

"We're doing less [of a] job attracting the money from surrounding counties, Person and Chatham, because they are adding their own product so people are staying closer to home," said Ted Abernathy,Durham Economic Developmentmanager.

Durham will compete by adding a huge product -- theSouthpoint Mall. Sales tax accounts for 20 percent of Durham's budget, so city leaders are also watching the retail cash flow.

Existing malls and stores are also trying to draw in new customers. Norman Powell's jewelry store is advertising outside the Triangle and targeting customers in Virginia and rural North Carolina.

"The more people who know about you, the better business you do. It's word of mouth, and a larger customer base means larger sales," said Powell.

Local sales figures from Thanksgiving weekend will not be available for another couple of weeks.

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Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
Jim Young, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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