Columbia looking to hire retail-promoting firm

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COLUMBIA - Big city and online shopping might be hurting sales tax revenue.

City of Columbia is looking to hire the consulting firm Retail Strategies to figure how much local revenue the city is losing.

Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the city has a $72 million general fund budget and 27 percent of that number is from sales tax.

"We need to figure out how many sales tax dollars are leaving Columbia for bigger cities like Kansas City or St. Louis," he said.

Retail Strategies would have access to data from credit card transactions, specifically zip codes, to calculate lost sales tax revenue.

The firm would also promote the downtown district and the rest of Columbia to national companies.

It would cost the city $48,000 the first year the firm develops the data and $26,000 for each additional year.

Cha Boutique manager Jennifer Pestle said she has not lost significant revenue to online sales, but believes the downtown district can better promote businesses. 

"If the district would host events, I believe the public would have better knowledge of newer shops and downtown in general," she said.

City Council will vote Monday on the proposal to hire the firm.