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Lawrence retail sales grew by about 2 percent in 2013, according to new report


It appears everybody this year did their pre-Christmas calisthenics. Jumping jacks? No. Jumping the line at the checkout counter? Yes. Push-ups? Forget about it. Pushing your way to the discounted Halloween candy corn? Absolutely.

What? How can you not know what I'm talking about? A certain someone in my household told me this was critical. You must stretch your shopping muscles before the holiday season begins.

Regardless, lots of Lawrence shoppers apparently did just that. According to a new report from City Hall, retail sales from mid-October to mid-November were up by a solid 8.4 percent, compared with the same period a year ago. We'll have to wait another week or two for the next sales tax report to see whether that momentum carried into the true holiday shopping season.

But the report does give us a look at how retail spending shaped up in 2013. The report is based off the December sales tax payment the city received from the state, which means we now have 12 months of sales tax data.

The result? A fair to middling year for retail sales in Lawrence. Consumers in Lawrence racked up $1.38 billion in taxable sales in 2013. (The majority of it is retail sales, but it also includes the sales tax you pay on your utility bills, for example.) That's up 2.1 percent from 2012 totals.

A 2 percent growth rate is nothing to sneer at. Remember, back in 2009 and 2010, the city saw retail sales actually decline. And over the last 10 years, the city's retail sales have grown on average by about 2.3 percent per year. So, in that regard, 2013 was just a tick below average. But the 2.1 percent rate was the slowest since the economy started to recover after the recession. In 2011, sales grew by 4.5 percent and in 2012 they grew by 5.2 percent. Clearly, the recovery lost some steam in 2013.

And you perhaps could argue that it lost a little more steam in Lawrence than it did elsewhere in the state. Statewide, sales tax collections grew by 3.5 percent, according to figures from the Kansas Department of Revenue. But the growth was really hit or miss. Several of the state's larger retail areas didn't see that much growth. Here's a look at how several area communities and some of the larger retail markets in the state fared.

— Baldwin City: up 2 percent

— Emporia: up 3 percent

— Eudora: up 10.5 percent

— Garden City: up 6.2 percent

— Hays: down 12.7 percent

— Hutchinson: up 4.4 percent

— Junction City: up 0.2 percent

— Kansas City: up 5.8 percent

— Leavenworth: up 4.7 percent

— Lecompton: up 7.8 percent

— Manhattan: down 0.3 percent

— Olathe: up 4 percent

— Ottawa: up 4.7 percent

— Overland Park: up 2.9 percent

— Shawnee: up 3.9 percent

— Tonganoxie: up 8.9 percent

— Topeka: up 1.4 percent

— Sedgwick County: up 3.3 percent

One other thing I like to do is see how much Lawrence retail sales have grown after being adjusted for inflation. That exercise shows something important has happened. On an inflation-adjusted basis, Lawrence sales have again reached the level they were at prior to the recession. In other words, we finally have gained back our losses. Here's a look at the actual sales totals, with the number in parenthesis adjusted to 2013 dollars, based on the consumer price index.

2013: $1.38 billion

2012: $1.35 billion ($1.37 billion)

2011: $1.29 billion ($1.34 billion)

2010: $1.23 billion ($1.31 billion)

2009: $1.25 billion ($1.36 billion)

2008: $1.28 billion ($1.38 billion)

We'll have an even clearer picture of 2013 in the next few weeks when the report showing sales activity for late November and December is released. We'll have to wait and see what that shows about the true holiday shopping season. In the meantime, I have a lot of old candy corn left to eat.


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