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Major retailers expected to increase Orleans sales tax revenue

NEW ORLEANS - Some people used to consider New Orleans less than welcoming to national retail chains. Not anymore. The pace of major retail investment in the city has picked up lately with new options that include Panera Bread in Mid-City and, closer to downtown, the soon-to-open H&M clothing and Neiman Marcus. Not everyone, though, is thrilled at the changing retail scene.

Along North Peters Street in the French Quarter, excitement builds for the opening of an H&M clothing store.

"I think it's great," said Metairie resident Craig Aldridge. "I think it's bringing in - you've got tourists coming in, you've got locals coming in downtown. It's a great cheap place to get goods." 

On Halloween, the 32,000-square-foot space will open. It's the retail brand's first store in Louisiana. But H&M isn't the only big-name retailer to move into New Orleans. The Mid-City market is alive with activity after chain restaurants Panera Bread and Five Guys moved in earlier this year. A Tiffany jewelry store is slated to open at Canal Place, and the soon-to-be re-vamped Riverwalk will feature a Neiman Marcus outlet, among other big name stores.

Michael Hecht with GNO, Inc. says every time we hear that a new major retailer is coming to the city, we should consider it a compliment.

"It's validating our recovery," he said. "It's validating our revitalization, because all of these businesses are coming here - not because we've asked them - but because they've run the numbers and they believe these markets are ones that are growing in size, increasing in wealth, increasing in purchasing power."

Some groups say while they appreciate the city is trying to grow the local economy, they don't want to see too many chain stores move in.

"We want to make sure that we're doing it very mindfully and that we're not doing it at the expense of the local economy and the local businesses that make up so much of what makes New Orleans authentic," said Dana Eness, executive director of The Urban Conservancy.

For some, the thought of another major retailer moving into the French Quarter seems off.

"It doesn't appeal to me," said tourist Lisa Bogart. "I like the Quainter. I like more authentic." said tourist Lisa Bogart.

But the hope is that more places to shop in New Orleans will translate into bigger sales tax revenue. According to our partners at City Business, Jefferson Parish last year generated more than $300 million in sales tax, while Orleans Parish brought in just $162 million.

Hecht said he doesn't see the growth slowing down anytime soon.

"When you look around the city, you do see cranes in the sky, whether it's the medical center or the Riverwalk or retail, the construction is happening, the change is happening," he said. "There's tangible proof that people are seeing the value and the opportunity in New Orleans, in Louisiana, they're investing here."

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