- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Gulf Coast has room for more retail business, demographics show, but Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said poaching stores from one city to another is not the way to go.

Crossroads Shopping Center in Gulfport recently lost retailer Bed Bath & Beyond to the newer Promenade shopping center in D’Iberville, which sits at the interchange of Interstates 10 and 110. The retailer’s media relations department did not respond to questions about the move, but Hewes said he learned the store was offered a better rental arrangement at The Promenade.

“I don’t think that’s healthy when you’re taking in the same retail market,” said Hewes, who has promoted the concept of “One Coast” since he took office in July.

“I think there’s enough to go around if we do it right. Certainly, we would like some of that new activity.”

Harrison County and the entire coast, in fact, have room to increase the area’s “sphere of influence” over shoppers, as they call it in the retail industry. Interstate 10 appears key in an industry in which growth is generally flat.

Convenience is everything in the retail world. Interstate 10 and its major intersections are natural locations for shopping centers.

As D’Iberville continues to develop around The Promenade, Biloxi and Gulfport have targeted more I-10 real estate within their boundaries for retail development.

“Interstate 10 changed behavior and made everyone more mobile,” said Greg T. Bradley, assistant clinical professor in the College of Business at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast and president of The Bradley Research Group.

“Quite honestly, we don’t have a fully developed Interstate 10 corridor. I see a day when we continue to develop here. Certainly, the city of D’Iberville is moving in that direction.

“Instead of moving north to south, they’re starting to move east and west on Interstate 10, which will increase our sphere of influence,” Bradley said.

More retail centers along Interstate 10 means more people from surrounding areas will come to the coast to shop, he said.

“If you live equal distance between Hattiesburg and The Promenade,” Bradley said, “where do you shop and why? That’s the big question.”

A bigger concentration of major retailers draws from a larger geographic area. For years, coast shoppers headed to New Orleans or Mobile. Those old habits continue to some extent, but as more retail develops along Interstate 10, the shoppers will have fewer reasons to leave South Mississippi.

Niche shopping areas in downtown Ocean Springs and Bay St. Louis also help draw more visitors.

Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties have room for retail growth, statistics show. The “pull factor” measures retail influence in a county or other specified area.

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