As more students live in the area around USC, more brand-name retail stores will come to the neighborhood, according to Manuel Pastor, a professor of American studies and ethnicity.
Lower income areas tend to have one or two “mom-and-pop” stores for specific needs rather than large retail chains or supermarkets, according to a study conducted at the Price School of Public Policy and Development.
In “Are Poor Neighborhoods ‘Retail Deserts’?,” Jenny Schuetz, an assistant professor of public policy, found lower income areas have less competition and thus higher prices, even though residents would most benefit from lower prices.
“Low-income households presumably have the most to gain from lower prices, made possible by economies of scale, yet are less likely to benefit from [economies of scale],” Schuetz said.
Pastor, an expert in economic and social conditions in low-income urban communities, said having more students around the University Park Campus has changed the retail landscape.
“USC has made a major shift to become a residential community,” Pastor said. “Lower income areas tend to be [ignored by] major retail chains.”
What these stores don’t realize, Pastor said, is that they should be happy to invest in poorer neighborhoods because of the appeal of the goods they sell.
“People in lower income areas do tend to spend a lot of money on food, medicines and other necessities,” Pastor said.
Pastor predicts that more chain stores will continue to open in the area around USC, as they have during the last 10 to 15 years. He said the community would benefit from stores, such as Trader Joe’s, associated with higher income areas.
“I don’t think the creation of full-service stores, like Trader Joe’s, would hurt the community,” Pastor said. “It would help deliver food of decent quality at a lower price by introducing more competition for other stores.”
He explained that the neighborhood’s families will ultimately benefit from greater competition between grocery stores.
Pastor said he believes both USC students and the neighborhood should be excited about upcoming initiatives by USC, such as the newly opening Fresh & Easy Express under University Gateway and The Village at USC, plans that call for a sprawling collection of entertainment, dining and retail options, along with a cornucopia of new student housing north of Jefferson Boulevard.
Lauren Taniguchi, a sophomore majoring in public relations, expressed some misgivings about The Village at USC providing balance between student needs and the needs of the community.
“Honestly, I was surprised when I saw the plans online. Even the architect [of The Village] is the same one who worked on The Grove,” Taniguchi said. “The new plans will really shake things up. I don’t know what stores they’re specifically putting in, but I guess they’ve done enough research to determine what’s appropriate.”
Divakar Singamsetty, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, said the current University Village is inadequate, and Target and a large grocery chain store, like Albertsons, should open in place of Superior Grocers.
“The only useful store there is Superior, and the quality of the food isn’t that good,” Singamsetty said. “They need to accommodate more student needs closer to campus, like larger availability of eateries and small retail stores. As you go farther out, the community’s needs should be more carefully considered.”
Taniguchi thinks the stores in the University Village are adequate.
“They meet the needs of both the students and the neighborhood pretty well. It’s convenient, not far and has everything you need with groceries and other things,” Taniguchi said. “With everything on Figueroa [Street], like Fresh & Easy, already catering to student needs, it’s clear that the area and people need the U.V. more than the students do.”