The up and down trend of retail spending in Lawrence is continuing.
The latest sales tax report out of Lawrence City Hall shows retail spending for the period of mid-August to mid-September, about the time students returned to campus, was down about 1.6 percent compared to the same period a year ago.
The decline comes after a whopping 17 percent increase in the previous month's reporting period. The city has received 10 of its 12 sales tax checks from the state this year, and thus far retail sales have been up in five of those months and they have been down in five.
The forward steps, however, have been just a little bit bigger than the backwards steps. Through the first 10 reporting periods, retail spending is up about 2.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago.
The bottom-line is that retail sales in the city are still growing but not nearly at the rate they were in 2012. At this time in 2012, sales tax collections were up 6.1 percent compared to 2011 totals.
Looking at a little bit broader picture, the large increase in 2012 came after Lawrence consumer spending hit some pretty pitiful levels in 2009 and 2010. Consumers started to ramp up in 2011, but it appears that 2012 is when consumers unleashed their pent up demand. That period of pent-up demand, it appears, is now over. Once you adjust for inflation, consumer spending in Lawrence is up only about 0.6 percent for the year. This year's sales tax collections are on track to meet the city's budget estimates, but if this moderation continues, it will make 2014 an interesting year to watch.
It also is interesting to watch what is going on in other major retail markets in the state. Lawrence is faring slightly poorer than many of the major retail areas in the state, with a few notable exceptions. Lawrence's 2.5 percent growth rate thus far in 2013 is better than Topeka at 1.6 percent; Manhattan at 1.1 percent; and far better than Hays, where something is either amiss with the reports or else a significant spending slow down has occurred. Sales tax numbers in Hays are down 9.9 percent for the year.
Here's a look at other major retail areas in the state:
• Emporia: up 3.6 percent
• Johnson County: up 4.3 percent
• Kansas City: up 5.7 percent
• Lenexa: up 6 percent
• Olathe: up 4.7 percent
• Ottawa: up 6.7 percent
• Overland Park: up 3.1 percent
• Salina: up 2.5 percent
• City of Shawnee: up 4.9 percent
• Sedgwick County: up 3.6 percent
Here's one other piece of data for you. The state periodically provides statistics on the type of consumer spending taking place in the state. The latest report shows spending by industry through the first six months of 2013. I don't have access to numbers specifically or Lawrence, but these statewide numbers may give glimpse at what sectors of the market are rising of falling locally.
Sales tax collections for sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores were the largest gainer in the retail sector, by percentage increase. Sales in that sector were up 5.2 percent during the first six months of the year. Other retail categories included:
• Vehicle and parts sales: up 4.3 percent
• Furniture and home furnishing: up 1.8 percent
• Electronics and appliance stores: down 2.8 percent
• Building material and garden supply stores: down 2.7 percent
• Grocery and food and beverage stores: up 2.8 percent
• Drug stores and personal care stores: up 3.0 percent
• Gasoline stations: down 1.9 percent
• Clothing and clothing accessories: up 3.6 percent
• General merchandise stores: up 0.8 percent
• Miscellaneous retailers: down 6.4 percent
• Restaurant and drinking establishments: up 1.7 percent
• Hotels and accommodations: up 2.1 percent