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Lawrence retail sales numbers up for fifth straight month; church buys former Lawrence Community Theater building
Lawrence retail sales numbers are up for their fifth straight month, according to a new report from City Hall. The reason? Perhaps shoppers were stocking up for this very day.
Surely you know what today is. It is National High Five Day, and that means you better have stocked up on hand sanitizer. If you work at an elementary school — as my wife does — where approximately umpteen students and staff members vomited yesterday, you doubly want to stock up on hand sanitizer. Consequently, my wife soaked in a vat of it for several hours, and now leaves a gooey trail behind her, much like an eel. (I mean that in the most endearing way, dear.)
So, maybe that is why retail sales were up for this most recent period, or maybe there is a less logical explanation. Regardless, the latest report — which measures taxable sales from mid-January to mid-February — were up 0.4 percent compared to the same period a year ago. I never said they were up a lot, but it lends credence to my theory. Hand sanitizer comes in really small bottles. (Don't feel bad if you didn't see that. I'm widely considered an amateur economist.)
Thus far in 2014, Lawrence's retail sales totals are up 1.6 percent for the year. On most days that wouldn't be anything to give a high-five about, but . . . actually, the number is pretty good compared to what's happening in some other large retail centers in the state. Places like Topeka, Overland Park and Olathe have gotten off to slower starts in 2014. Here's a look at the sales tax growth or decline in some of the larger markets in the state:
— Dodge City: down 6 percent
— Emporia: up 3.4 percent
— Garden City: down 0.4 percent
— Hays: down 26.9 percent
— Hutchinson: down 2.1 percent
— Kansas City: down 1.2 percent
— Leavenworth: up 6.2 percent
— Leawood: down 6.9 percent
— Lenexa: up 4.4 percent
— Manhattan: down 0.2 percent
— Olathe: down 5.7 percent
— Overland Park: up 1.3 percent
— Salina: down 2.5 percent
— Shawnee: up 1.6 percent
— Topeka: down 2.1 percent
The list shows two things: 1. Perhaps a meteor has hit Hays and news hasn't made it back this far east yet. (Hays' sales tax numbers have been awful for several months, and I really have meant to call out there because I'm curious about what has happened.) 2. Lawrence performed better than several other large markets.
This is always an interesting time of the year for sales tax numbers because the budget-makers at City Hall soon will have to put together their best estimates on what sales tax numbers will do in 2015. The city's budget process will begin this summer, and an estimate of how much sales taxes will generate in 2015 is a key number in the budget process.
Taxable sales in Lawrence have grown three straight years, after falling in 2009 and 2010. Taxable sales grew by 4.5 percent in 2011, 5.2 percent in 2012 and 2.1 percent in 2013. I know budget makers would like to count on a 2 percent increase in retail sales, but was 2013 the beginning of a moderation? I don't know.
What I do know is my hand hurts. For some reason, each high five I asked for from my wife this morning got a little harder: The one after she brushed her teeth, the one after she brushed her hair, the one after she packed her lunch, the one after she loaded dirty clothes in the washing machine. After that one, I kept my hands in my pockets.
In other news and notes from around town:
• Easter is almost upon us, and there is a local church making a little bit of news in the real estate industry. Vintage Church has purchased the building at 15th and New Hampshire streets that formerly housed the Lawrence Community Theatre.
Vintage Church has been meeting in space at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School for about the last five years. Deacon Godsey, the lead pastor, said the congregation of about 250 people is excited to have a location to call its own.
"It has great seating and great children's ministries space for us," Godsey said. "And we love the fact that we're in a residential neighborhood."
Godsey said his research indicates the building was originally built to be a church. He said telephone records indicated the building housed a church from about 1949 to 1984, when the community theater took over the building.
Vintage, a non-denominational Christian church, plans to begin holding services in the building on May 11. Some minor renovation work is currently underway at the site.