HICKORY, NC-The Big Four retail submarkets here of Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba will surpass $4 billion in sales this year and already are moving past vibrant tourist/retail destinations such as Asheville, NC and Myrtle Beach, SC, according to Sales & Marketing Management, a trade publication.

The region’s $255.7 million in retail furniture sales alone beats three-fourths of the country’s metropolitan statistical areas in larger centers. An emerging trend in the region is the number of new restaurants. For example, Rebecca Phillips plans to open Café Gouda this month in Hickory’s Viewmont section and doesn’t worry the competition is growing around her.

The construction business among the Unifour, as the magazine calls Alexander, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba, is also in an up cycle. Just west of Hickory in Morganton, Lowe’s is building a $15-million home improvement superstore. The project is only one of several in the city that could generate as much as $80 million worth of new development this year. The magazine projects the Unifour will take in over $400 million in retail sales for building materials and related supplies this year.

But it’s the Unifour’s auto and parts sales that account for the biggest slice of retail. Over $1 billion in receipts represent a quarter of all retail sales in the region, the magazine says. For example, Paramount Automotive Group is spending about $8 million to consolidate several dealerships into a single showroom site on Catawba Valley Boulevard in Hickory.

The Hickory region’s health and personal care stores also collect around $215 million in sales. That’s more than the combined total for the state’s Greenville and Wilmington regions, the magazine states. The publication’s 71st annual buying power survey estimates retail sales for the nation’s 323 metropolitan statistical areas of large population centers.

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