Sales tax returns show local holiday shopping was strong; report shows Lawrence residents have some of the better credit scores in Kansas

photo by: Peter Hancock

Shoppers hit Massachusetts Street on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, looking for Black Friday bargains as the holiday shopping season gets underway.

Perhaps the Thanksgiving turkey was laced with optimism. (I’m going to blame optimism on breaking my elastic waistband.) Whatever the case, the latest numbers indicate Lawrence retailers benefited from shoppers in a buying mood during the critical Black Friday holiday shopping period.

The city received its January sales tax check from the state of Kansas, which covers sales made primarily in November, including the time around Thanksgiving when the holiday shopping season enters full swing. The numbers show sales tax collections in Lawrence were up by 4.9 percent compared with the same period a year ago.

In fact, shoppers appeared to be in a good mood in many of the state’s larger retail markets. While Lawrence’s nearly 5 percent growth was good, it wasn’t the best. Here’s a look at other large retail markets in the state:

• Kansas City, Kan.: up 13.7 percent

• Manhattan: up 12 percent

• Lenexa: up 11.8 percent

• Shawnee: up 11.2 percent

• Sedgwick County (Wichita): up 7.6 percent

• Overland Park: up 7.0 percent

• Lawrence: up 4.9 percent

• Olathe: up 3.7 percent

• Salina: up 1.8 percent

• Topeka: down 2.3 percent

So, looking at those numbers, Lawrence actually was in the bottom half in terms of growth rates, but it seems silly to get upset about a nearly 5 percent growth rate. Lawrence leaders would be happy if you guaranteed them that for the entire year.

The other thing to keep in mind is this is just one month’s worth of collections. We won’t really start to see a trend for the year until several more months worth of checks arrive. But it does give you some indication of how the holiday shopping season went this year. The February sales tax check also will be important in that regard. It will reflect sales made primarily in December.

Sales tax continues to be one of the most important revenue sources for the City of Lawrence. The city’s 2019 budget again is banking on sales tax collections to increase. If they don’t, late year budget adjustments might have to be made.

In other news and notes from around town:

I’m betting a good amount of that holiday shopping was done with credit cards this year. When it comes to credit and Lawrence, I have some numbers to share. A new report is out that provides the average credit score for more than 2,000 communities across the country, and, perhaps surprisingly, Lawrence fares pretty well.

The financial website WalletHub joined forces with the credit rating company TransUnion to create an average credit score for about 2,500 cities across the U.S.

As you probably know, a credit score is a pretty good indication of how much debt you have, how much income you have and other factors that would affect your ability to pay off future debt. There’s considerable discussion in Lawrence about issues such as incomes lower than the statewide average, housing costs that are higher than average, large amounts of student debt and other such issues that generally create some negative economic vibes.

But this report shows that while we are not Johnson County flush, we are in a better position than lots of other communities across the state. Lawrence finished in the 66th percentile, which made it one of only eight Kansas cities that scored above the 50th percentile. Lawrence was one of only three non-Johnson County cities to score above the 50th percentile.

Below is a list of some area communities, their credit scores and their percentile rank. Communities with the best average credit scores in the country rank in the 99th percentile. Those with the worst scores rank in the 1st percentile. As for the scores themselves, WalletHub didn’t say what the highest possible credit score was, but usually the top mark is 850 to 900 with most credit scoring systems.

• Leawood 775 score, 99th percentile

• Lenexa: 743 score; 87th percentile

• Overland Park: 741 score; 85th percentile

• Shawnee: 736 score; 82nd percentile

• Derby: 725 score; 75th percentile

• Olathe: 724 score; 74th percentile

• Manhattan: 721 score; 69th percentile

• Lawrence: 717 score; 66th percentile

• Emporia: 690 score, 48th percentile

• Topeka: 681 score; 42nd percentile

• Hutchinson: 675 score; 38th percentile

• Salina: 682 score; 42nd percentile

• Wichita: 670 score; 32nd percentile

• Pittsburg: 670 score, 27th percentile

• Dodge City, 662 score; 22nd percentile

• Garden City, 660 score, 20th percentile

• Junction City: 648 score; 11th percentile

• Kansas City, Kan.; 636 score; 7th percentile

• Liberal: 636 score; 7th percentile

• Today’s icy weather has caused an open house for the new, large industrial building in VenturePark to be postponed. I had alerted readers to the event yesterday. Don’t bother going out there today, but rather put it on your calendar for Feb. 20 at a to-be-determined time.


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