OUR VIEW: Will more shopping dollars remain in parish?

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Walmart opened with the anticipation of inoculating much-need economic adrenalin into a financially starved region.

When the discount store giant recently cracked the seal on its newest Bogalusa location not only was there an immediate creation of new jobs but also the promise of attracting customers from surrounding areas.

Apparently, other retail outlets are now planning to cash in on Walmart’s immense popularity, which should be an additional infusion to the local economy. Dollar Tree, a discount variety store, and Rue 21, a discount retailer of fashion for young people, are also making plans to move into Walmart’s 3-acre footprint off of Superior Avenue, according to Bogalusa city officials.

If indeed the companies follow through on their plans the news is welcome on two fronts. First and foremost, additional retail outlets generate increased sales tax, which is critical for the city and parish.

Any uptick generated by the euphonic ringing of new cash registers will only help the parish balance its threadbare budget, especially if voters approve a proposed increase sales tax in April. Walmart, along with its new neighbors, will not be a financial panacea for Washington Parish, but a festering economic wound can only heal with salve applied one dollar at a time.

Secondly, the stores may be a step, albeit small, in luring residents to shop at home and tempering the outer migration of dollars to St. Tammany Parish. For years, Bogalusa was considered St. Tammany’s shopping district but during the past decade or so that trend has reversed, one reason being a dearth of adequate outlets in the parish.

Rue 21, a popular outlet for young people, finally gives cause for potential buyers to look local first before exporting their shopping dollars. For the foreseeable future St. Tammany will continue to be Washington Parish’s primary entertainment and shopping destination but perhaps the opening of these two stores is a start.

Walmart’s ultimate impact on Bogalusa and the region will play out in the upcoming months and years. Early returns, however, are positive, welcome news where shopping dollars are precious and generally spent elsewhere.