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.
With this recent batch of rainy weather, it is hard to believe that earlier this year we were all buying sunscreen, flip flops, mosquito netting, shark repellent, harpoons and 55-gallon drums of margarita mix. (What? Isn't that your standard list of items to take to the beach?)
Regardless, we were buying summer items, and according to a new sales tax report from City Hall, we were buying them at a pretty good clip.
The city has received its July sales tax check from the state, but because of a lag time in processing, the figures actually represent sales made from about mid May to mid June.
Sales for the period were up 4.3 percent from the same period a year ago.
So far, 2013 has been an up-and-down year for sales tax, unlike 2012, which was pretty much a steady upward climb that produced one of the city's better sales tax performances in recent memory.
But as it stands now, year-to-date totals for 2013 are up about 2 percent from the same period a year ago. That rate of growth isn't nearly as fast as the city experienced in 2012, when sales grew at a 5.2 percent rate, or in 2011, when they grew at a 4.5 percent rate. But the city is on pace to have its third straight year of sales tax growth after declines in 2009 and 2010. Plus, this year's rebound is occurring at the same time that housing sales are on the rise. Historically, strong home sales and improving retail sales have created a propitious cycle for the Lawrence economy. (Propitious cycle? They're hard to come by. Just try to find one at a local bike shop.)
Here's a look at the year-to-date taxable sales totals for the city since 2008. The numbers in parentheses are the totals adjusted for inflation.
- 2013: $800.9 million
- 2012: $784.6 million ($797.9)
- 2011: $745.2 million ($773.5)
- 2010: $708.7 million ($758.9)
- 2009: $734.1 million ($799.0)
- 2008: $750.6 million ($814.0)
Those numbers show that our recent sales tax growth has been outpacing inflation, but we still have a little bit to go to get our spending activity back to the pre-recession levels. Adjusted for inflation, our spending is down about 1.7 percent from our 2008 levels.
Considering where we once were at, a 1.7 percent shortfall isn't worth worrying too much about. It is not like sharks at Clinton Lake or anything. (What's that? There's no megaladon at Clinton Lake. Curse you, Shark Week. Shark repellent is expensive.)