SteadyBlogging on Twitter (SteadyTweets?)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

shopping in McAllen

Haven't had much time to write up here lately, since orientation was last week and classes started this week. It looks like all 3 classes (fundamental of financial economics; stochastic calculus; and empirical methods, i.e., financial econometrics) will be very good, but very challenging and time-demanding.

The time leading up to jumping back into school was good. It was nice to have
Baba visit, esp since I got to take them all around the city. In one day, we walked across the Mission to Dolores Park, then down to the Castro; took the F-Market to Powell, and walked up to Union Square and the top of Nob Hill; walked down into Chinatown, and had lunch on Broadway; had coffee on Columbus in N Beach, then walked down to Fisherman's Wharf; took the F-Market back to the Ferry Building, and walked around and through there; took the N-Judah to China Basin, and walked around SBC; then finally took the N-Judah back to Church, and caught the J-Church back to where we started.

The next day we only did a half-day out, but got to the Civic Center, and spent quite a bit of time in the Main Library and the Asian Art Museum. So much time, in fact, that by the time we took the N Judah out to the Inner Sunset and walked into GG Park and over to the deYoung, it was too late to either get a coffee or go up to the observation deck.

The day after that, we drove out over the GG Bridge, skirted across the north Bay, and then over to Sacramento. I continued on to Tahoe with Mark, while Ma and Baba returned to Berkeley.

The long weekend in Tahoe was good. I'd been debating whether I'd get out on the slopes at all, but since it was looking like fun, and since we got a St. Patrick's Day special on lift tickets at Squaw, I rented a snowboard and went out with the guys. Glad I did--I picked up where I left off after Anj's tutoring last year, and was able to stay on my feet and off the snow for the most part, and make it down some runs.

Other than that, the weekend consisted of watching basketball, playing Monopoly, eating, drinking, lounging.

OK, that's the update. About the subject line: I'd planned to just post this link, so that I can clear out my inbox a bit. It's always interesting to see something about 'the Valley'--and this article was prominent on the front page of the WSJ (3-3-06). The headline was "Thanks to Mexican Shoppers, Retail Booms on Texas Border."

If you've been reading carefully, you may remember a few months ago I alluded to this retail boom--and specifically to the profusion of Mexican shoppers at La Plaza Mall, which the article is primarily about--when I blogged during our last trip to South Texas (see the 1st paragraph here).

Since you may not have time or access to click through to the WSJ, here are the first few paragraphs:
MCALLEN, Texas -- Hidalgo County, in the southernmost tip of Texas, is the poorest county of 250,000 or more people in the U.S., with nearly half its families living below the poverty line. Vendors hawk bootleg DVDs and homemade tacos out of the back of pickup trucks. Stray dogs roam the scrubland along highways. Hidalgo is also home to one of America's highest-grossing shopping malls, the sprawling La Plaza Mall of McAllen, Texas.

Owned by Simon Property Group Inc., the nation's No. 1 mall developer, La Plaza features valet parking, trendy clothing chains like Abercrombie Fitch Co. and Banana Republic, and high-end jewelers Swarovski and Helzberg Diamonds. La Plaza generates monthly sales of well over $450 a square foot, compared with a national mall average of $392. Next year, Simon, of Indianapolis, plans to open the 600,000-square-foot Palms Crossing shopping center a half-mile away. In nearby Mercedes, Simon is opening the $68 million Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets, a 400,000-square-foot, upscale outlet, in November.

The reason: Mexican shoppers, both rich and poor, are pouring into the area, making it the equivalent of Madison Avenue for northern Mexico's consumer class. Border agencies tally nearly 40 million legal visits a year by Mexicans coming to Texas for leisure activities. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas figures they spent $3 billion on merchandise in Texas border counties in 2004, the latest data available, up from around $1.6 billion a decade earlier. In the past 10 years, retail sales in McAllen have risen more than 75%, nearly double the nationwide pace of 40%. Per-capita sales here are twice the national average, according to the census.

The activity demonstrates an unexpected development in American retailing. While Mexican money has long flowed north, the current upsurge has turned South Texas' poor borderlands into the latest, and one of the last, ripe frontiers for big retailers. At a time when major retail chains are facing declining market share and tepid sales in America's affluent suburbs, they are finding unexpected hope in the Mexican consumer.

Forty of the nation's top 100 retailers have recently staked their claim here. When Guess Inc. launched its new clothing boutique, Marciano, in 2004, the company chose Los Angeles, Toronto and McAllen as its three test cities. Foley's, a chain of department stores in Texas owned by Federated Department Stores Inc., Cincinnati, says operations in McAllen and nearby Laredo are its fastest-growing locations. J.C. Penney Co., Plano, Texas, says about three quarters of customers at its McAllen store are from Mexico and last year the chain allowed Mexican shoppers to apply for its gift registry and credit card. The store offers bilingual gift cards and an in-store beauty salon popular with Mexican women.

This reminds me that one of the very first blog posts I did on Steady Blogging, back in June 2003, was to save an article in the NYT Business section. The headline: "Mexican Wealth Gives Texas City a New Vitality"! (To see my blog post, you'll have go here and then scroll down to near the bottom, to the "Sat, June 14"...
I was doing all the html from scratch then, and even though I actually tried to insert permalinks for each entry, I didn't get it right for that one! Although the formatting is totally DIY--which actually has its own appeal--in scrolling through, it's nice to see I posted some interesting links.

No comments: