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Retail sales in city starting to slip, latest report finds


If you haven't gotten your annual roller coaster ride in yet, don't worry. You can always spend a little time with the city of Lawrence's retail sales numbers. They've been up and down and up and down.

The city has received its latest sales tax check, representing sales made roughly from mid-June to mid-July, and the trend continues. Sales for the month were down 2.1 percent compared to the same period a year ago. The city now has received eight of its 12 sales tax checks for 2013. Four of them have been up from the same period a year ago, and four of them have been down.

So far the net result has been OK. Total year-to-date sales in the city are up 1.5 percent from the same period a year ago. But that number is beginning to look a little weaker all the time. That's because the city's roller coaster has been on a more downward path than upward. During the first four months of the year, retail sales were growing at a 3 percent clip. In the last four months, sales totals have been stagnant from a year ago.

When you factor inflation into the equation, Lawrence's sales totals aren't quite keeping up. Here's a look at taxable sales made in the city thus far in 2013 compared to the same period in past years. The numbers in parentheses are the numbers adjusted for inflation. You'll notice that 2012's sales adjusted for inflation are slightly higher than 2013's sales. So, that's a sign that retailers may be having a bit of a ho-hum season thus far. But the numbers also show sales are much better than they were during the recession. On the flip side, sales still have quite a ways to go to reach pre-recession levels.

2013 sales: $922.3 million

2012 sales: $908.7 million ($924.5)

2011 sales: $844.3 million ($876.7)

2010 sales: $814.6 million ($872.6)

2009 sales: $831.0 million ($904.8)

2008 sales: $861.4 million ($934.5)

Town Talk will be off on Monday for the Labor Day holiday. Enjoy your three-day weekend. Heck, ride a roller coaster. My wife has been urging us to cross that activity off the summer list. I've resisted. I can't figure out why my seat is the only one without seat belts.


smileydog 4 years, 2 months ago

It sounds like we need yet another sales tax increase so things will look rosy for the short term since they never take into account the long term ramifications, thus the dip.

theoljhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

It seems that this is the price you pay when you want to keep the downtown area "quaint." Lawrence has kept out the larger stores that would anchor a mall to maintain the downtown area (the place where a lot of the city commission personnel own businesses). It is a short drive to KC to have a wider selection and cheaper prices! Nobody to blame but yourselves!

elliottaw 4 years, 2 months ago

you mean Kohls, Penny's and Target? I think people are in general looking for a larger selection and a lower sales tax rate to be charged, 10% is killer

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

That's not correct - last time I checked our local tax rate was 8.85%.

And, some places get to charge an extra 1% on top of that, which would bring it to 9.85%, very close to 10%.

Keith 4 years, 2 months ago

The state dropped .15% a couple of months ago.

nominalize 4 years, 2 months ago

Really? Can you say more about these? I'm asking as a new resident interested in local history.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 2 months ago

Tanger Retail Outlet mall out by the west entrance to the turnpike and the Riverfront Mall where Marriott River suites are now, right by the City Hall Building. Both have spaces rented and space available. Both failed to become successful Retail Malls.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 2 months ago

Sorry. My Bad. Tanger is on North 2nd by the East entrance to the Turnpike in North Lawrence. Not The West.

tomatogrower 4 years, 2 months ago

There was the riverfront mall which is now a hotel and some offices. Then there was Tanger Mall on the north side. They were outlet malls that were suppose to bring shoppers from miles around. Didn't happen and the locals weren't that interested. Some of us are still a little irritated that our tax dollars helped pay for the parking lot at the River Front Mall, but you now can't use it unless you are staying at the hotel, or doing business strictly with one of the offices. You can't park there and walk over to Free State for lunch. And the hotel doesn't allow people to walk along the walkway to view the eagles in the winter, like we could when it was a mall.

50YearResident 4 years, 2 months ago

Bad Location and Bad Location = 2 Failures

theoljhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

I would not call any of those failures, malls! White elephant stores only! They had the market cornered on that for sure! Maybe that is the problem? That is Lawrence's definition of a "mall!"

Maracas 4 years, 2 months ago

If I can buy it online, I do. And if they don't charge sales tax, it's a bonus. Sometimes shipping is free and sometimes it's much lower than the sales tax would be. I've yet to be burned buying anything online, and I have bought quite a lot.

nick_s 4 years, 2 months ago

What? I thought Mike Dever said things are looking up for 2014? The city budget was set accordingly, now all of a sudden the economic swami's prediction isn't coming to fruition? Amazing. I guess on Jan 1 2014 is when we'll start seeing the upswing.

Seth Peterson 4 years, 2 months ago

Well, it is already the best year that Lawrence has had since 2008 and it's only September. The growth may end up being slightly lower than projected, but that is an idea based on someone else's predictions from information over the last 9 months of trends.

Things are better in 2013 and do look better for 2014; Mike's 'prediction' was 100% spot on, unless you try to exaggerate his comment, or don't use math to asses financial values.

tomatogrower 4 years, 2 months ago

You also need to remember the students were mostly gone during these months. Fewer students are able to afford summer school, or they take a class online, so they aren't here shopping. Of course, tuition will just continue to rise, and we'll have fewer students here anyway, so might as well get used to it. Brownback and cronies' experiment will have a trickle down affect, but it won't be the money that's moving down.

Beth Ennis 4 years, 2 months ago

I know that Lawrence has a lot of federal employees living here. I wonder if this is a reflection of the furloughs. I know my husband and I have spent less money. I also know that Leavenworth took a big hit, of course, the fort is right there. But I know of 3 van pools that come in to Lawrence and a lot of us drive in our own carpools. There are also a lot of federal employees working in KC area that live in Lawrence.

KU_cynic 4 years, 2 months ago

Flat population growth, relatively flat salary growth, no new major employers, utility bills up, city service fees up, real estate taxes up . . . What else to expect unless people are going to load up on unsustainable credit-fueled consumption?

Insidestraight 4 years, 2 months ago

Sales tax rates here are an absolute killer.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

Brownback laid off tons of state workers which I'm sure plenty lived in Lawrence.... yet some cheered that move. Why? How does that protect the local economies?

Putting people out of work is always hard on the economy. Aka dumb economics.

UMKC is offering in state tuition to Johnson and Douglas county residents. JCCC is a better bang for the buck.

Big anchors don't want to be here. The retail dollars are not in Lawrence. Lawrence reckless planning is living a illusion. There are a few big names in downsized locations.

How in the world did any local mover and shaker come to the conclusion that KCMO metro and Topeka shoppers want to drive to Lawrence to shop? The Jayhawks won a NCAA basketball champion. That is not a solid fiscal foundation on which to base tax dollar spending.

Lawrence,Kansas is home to reckless tax dollar spending, inflation and low wages.

Scott Morgan 4 years, 2 months ago

I like Lawrence and have zero problem with buying locally. Also am a fisherperson, and shooter. In the last 4 months have dropped 1000s of moolahs in Topeka and JO-CO on anything from shoes to televisions, and who knows how much on fishing alone.

Oh, New Balance 600 Series tennis shoes 39.99 Bass Pro. El wifo picked up a couple of pairs of knock-around shoes with significant savings as well. Way I look at it, we paid for fuel, and even lunch. The New Balance normally 70 buckaroos, and can look guns and boats while there too.

Where can I do this in Lawrence?

This city has to get a grip and invite some big name stores and restaurants in here pronto.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

Big names are not as dumb and easy as some think. They know a flooded reckless managed market when they see one. Aka unfriendly to business.

The demographics don't meet the demand.

For example another grocery store is being included at the new 15th street/K-10 interchange. There are now four not far away on 6th street and another at 23rd and Kasold. Big retailers like to make money. Flooded markets cost workers their jobs.

IndusRiver 4 years, 2 months ago

The city of Manhattan has a sales tax rate set at 8.5%. It's got Fort O Riley bucks to pick off at the same time.

Kyle Chandler 4 years, 2 months ago

This economy can totally support a MENARDS!

MENARDS is going to save this city!!!

Just you wait!

kujeeper 4 years, 2 months ago

People need to quit buying their cars out of town to save a hundred bucks, that's big time sales tax leaving town.....

theoljhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Maybe the dealers need to earn the business! Sell the small town service, differentiate themselves from the big dealers in KC. Hey, how about being competitive in price?!!!!! There's a thought!

imastinker 4 years, 2 months ago

Those of you that the sales tax rates don't matter

. Somebody might not coming and leaving Lawrence driving to Kansas City and buy a sweater, but there's a lot of other people that live in the surrounding areas that can drive to Topeka, Kansas City, Leavenworth, or Ottawa.

I am building a home 10 miles outside Lawrence right now, and you can bet I know what the sales tax rates are at the different stores I shop at.

nominalize 4 years, 2 months ago

For those talking about the killer sales taxes... Lawrence's really isn't that high compared to its neighbors.

Lawrence: 8.75%, only 1.55% of which comes from the city. Topeka: 8.8%. Kansas City KS: 9.7% to 10.75%. Overland Park: 8.5% (Oak Park Mall is 9.0% with its special district). Lenexa: 8.75%. Leavenworth: 8.15%.

If you spent $500 in each place, the sales tax would be:

Lawrence: $43.75. Topeka: $44.00. K City: $48.50 (at the lower rate, $53.75 at the higher). O Park: $42.50 (Oak Park Mall: $45.00). Lenexa: $43.75. L'worth: $40.75.

Two conclusions:
1) Good luck comparison shopping on that basis! Any tax savings would be more than wiped out by added fuel and time spent. 2) People might shop out of Lawrence for a number of reasons, but sales tax is not one of them. Let's lay the tax bogeyman to rest.

tomatogrower 4 years, 2 months ago

Exactly. Many people shop out of town, because they commute out of town. Let's start bringing real jobs to Lawrence, not retail low paying jobs for college students. The fewer people you have commuting, the more the money will be spent here and will feed the retail.

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