After a decade of hard work, New Mexico’s economy was finally showing signs of stabilization and then COVID hit and all but erased that progress. New Mexico’s Tourism Department has projected the pandemic’s impact on the industry — including unemployment claims, lost local tax revenue and economic activity — at $4.3 billion. That figure does not include longer-term losses from business closures and workers moving elsewhere. Officials are predicting it could be three years or more before the state’s economy is back to pre-pandemic levels.
As of this spring, the number of tourists visiting New Mexico was on the rise and most retail stores were open. If spending patterns during the first three months of 2021 are an accurate barometer, the state is well on its way to recovering. The retail sector, for instance, one of the largest sectors in the state, recorded banner sales during this time, and accommodations and food service saw significant increases as well.
New-store openings, another indicator of economic positivity, are occurring as well throughout New Mexico. Off-price retailer Burlington Stores is slated to open a new location in the state’s capital of Santa Fe this fall and liquidation store BINge opened its first location in southern New Mexico’s largest city, Las Cruces, in June.
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Known as bin stores, outlets such as BINge have constantly changing assortments, ranging from food and HBC to electronics, sporting goods and clothing. Inventory is acquired from popular online retail sites and consists of returned items, shelf pulls, overstock or remaining inventory when a company shuts down.
Pricing follows a markdown approach. All items are sold in the beginning at a fixed price of $10, starting on Saturday and then reduced to $2 or $3 each day until Wednesdays when all items are marked $1. The store closes on Thursdays and Fridays when new shipments arrive and bins are restocked. The stores’ owners picked Las Cruces for their value-model store because it is among those areas hardest hit by the pandemic.
Specialty retailer Natural Grocers opened a new location in the affluent Los Alamos area in late 2020. In addition to selling a wide variety of natural and organic groceries, body care products and dietary supplements, the store features energy-saving innovations and nontoxic building materials. Natural Grocers’ policy is to not carry products that have hydrogenated oils or artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives. A nutritional health coach is also available in the store to provide free one-on-one health coaching sessions.
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Now that personal recreational use of cannabis is legal in New Mexico, officials are bracing for an influx of cannabis-related stores to open by the fall, which is expected to further infuse the economy. The state is highly dependent on oil and gas production, but officials have been looking into reducing its reliance on the former and expanding its investment in renewable energy, including solar and wind, which would bring more jobs to the state.