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Texas’ surging economy reflected in retail growth and chainstore moves

Texas suffered much less than the other 49 states during the recent recession, but even so the state’s economic engine was sluggish compared to boom times. There is evidence in many sectors, including retail and restaurants, that even the minor slowdown in the Lone Star State economy is in the rear view mirror.

In October, statewide sales tax revenue was $2.03 billion, up 8.2 percent compared to October 2011, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Susan Combs, said Nov. 7.

“The state’s growth in sales tax revenue continued to be led by collections from the oil and natural gas-related sectors,” said Ms. Combs. “We also saw strong consumer spending drive gains in retail trade and the restaurant sector as well.”

Meanwhile, Texas retailers and restaurateurs continue to make moves that reverberate around the nation.

Austin, TX-based Whole Foods Market Inc. recently reported a fourth-quarter profit of $112.7 million and revenue of $2.9 billion compared with a $75.4 million profit and revenue of $2.3 billion during the same quarter last year. The company posted a $465.5 million profit on revenue of $11.6 billion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 vs. a $342.6 million profit and revenue of $10.1 billion last year.

Whole Foods, founded in 1980, employs about 64,200 workers, including 48,200 full time workers. Executives called fiscal 2012 the best in the company’s 32-year history and attributed the performance to a strong pace of store openings coupled with improvements in operating margins.

During the quarter, Whole Foods opened seven new stores and signed 11 new leases, including a new showcase store in Dallas.

Meanwhile, other challengers are making moves in Texas. Monrovia, CA-based Trader Joe’s opened the doors of a new 11,000-square-foot San Antonio store on Nov. 2. The store is the chain’s sixth in the state and a seventh is under construction in Dallas.

After a two-decade absence, Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. recently returned to the San Antonio market when it acquired Tetco Inc.’s 163 stores in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Utah.

The acquisition is the largest for the booming 7-Eleven in the past four years and marks the first time its signs will be seen in San Antonio in 23 years. Earlier this year, 7-Eleven, North Texas’ largest private company, announced plans to open or acquire 630 new locations in the United States and Canada in 2012.

While 7-Eleven is expanding, one of its chief competitors in the state convenience store market, Valero, is contracting to a degree. Valero Energy Corp. officials earlier this month indicated that the company will spin off its Corner Stores retail business to shareholders instead of auctioning off its chain of 1,800-plus convenience stores and gas stations in the United States and Canada, in order to better focus on its energy components.

“Later this quarter, we expect to file a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Valero Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Klesse said in mid-November. “Given the typical timing of this process, we expect to complete the retail separation late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of 2013.”

Valero announced plans to divest its retail operation July 31. The company’s aim is to focus on its core refining business and officials have said they will do so in a “tax-efficient” way.