Mandan News

Mandan watching number for Wal-Mart impact

By Jessica Holdman
Lee News

One reason city officials pushed for the building of a Wal-Mart in Mandan was to increase city sales tax collections previously lost to shopping centers in Bismarck.

Sales tax collections in 2013 were up by $273,284 to $2,101,039 as of November in Mandan. Whether Wal-Mart is serving its intended purpose remains to be seen.

Kathy Strombeck, supervisor of research and education for the North Dakota Tax Department said because Wal-Mart opened in mid-September, the first month its sales tax figures showed up in state records was November.

Collections for November totaled $205,041, up from $162,137 in 2012 but down from the month before.

Mandan City Administrator Jim Neubauer said city officials are optimistic about the higher collections but are not declaring victory just yet. He said the city is waiting to see several more months of collections before deciding if the store has had the impact it hoped for. He said he is unsure of what else may have led to higher collections in previous months.

Strombeck said the city’s sales tax collections for the year overall are up but they may be up for other economic reasons rather than the big box store’s appearance.

In fact, sales tax collections for the year, at $1,306,888, were behind 2012 collections as of August. After strong collections in September, the 2013 number jumped to $1,672,136 – $231,898 more than 2012 for the same time period.

October 2013 collections totaled $223,862, which was higher than November’s but slightly lower than strong October 2012 collections of $225,380. Strombeck said every single city, as well as state sales tax collections, were down from October because of the late Thanksgiving.

Sales tax returns are due at the end of each month, which causes large monthly swings especially when months end on weekends. Strombeck said she expects strong numbers in December.

As far as sales, Wal-Mart’s Mandan store manager Andrew Coppersmith said the new location has been strong.

“We’ve been very pleased with customer response,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Delia Garcia.

Garcia said customers looked forward to having the Supercenter in Mandan because it is more convenient and allows them to spend their tax dollars within their own community.

Retail fled Mandan starting in 1970 with the opening of Kirkwood Mall in Bismarck. Even Bismarck’s own downtown suffered loss. With the opening of the area’s largest retail center, sales tax dollars were lost by Bismarck’s sister city to the west.

Based on surveys, Mandan city officials learned residents missed having retail options in their own town. So, the city and other community business organizations set to work bringing in the big box store at Old Red Trail.

“When you have an opportunity like Wal-Mart, it carries items you were not able to get elsewhere in Mandan,” said Brian Ritter, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association.

Garcia said since its opening, Wal-Mart has given its customers who previously traveled to Bismarck a closer option. She said the store also has gained new customers from Mandan and it has become a more convenient location for customers from outlying towns on the west side of the river.

“I can’t say it was unexpected,” Ritter said. “When you add a retailer the size of Wal-Mart in a town the size of Mandan, an area that has been underserved, I’d be shocked if it (sales tax collections) did not increase.”

Ritter said it’s part of the entire Bismarck-Mandan metropolitan area’s continued steady growth.

“We’ve got a good strong economy,” he said, adding that he expects to see sales tax collections on both sides of the river continue to increase.

Ritter said the benefit of a Mandan Wal-Mart is more shoppers coming into the market, bringing more sales tax revenue and allowing the city to buy down property taxes or make better repairs to streets and other infrastructure.

“It helps them to do things they’re not otherwise able to do,” he said.