Haas Center

Retail Round-Up: How do holiday sales compare?


By Haas Center on December 12, 2018


Holiday Retail Sales

Retail sales are one measure of an area’s economic health. Christmas time is usually the focal point of the retail sales season because gift giving significantly increases the population’s normal demand for retail products. But other events can also affect the amount and types of purchases that happen. For example, retail sales increase after natural disasters as households are rebuilt. They also sharply decrease in times of economic recession as household budgets shrink to accommodate job losses.

Locally, because of the large visitor population, summer retail sales are often higher than holiday sales. This fact is becoming more pronounced as summer visitor numbers continue to grow.

These numbers, however, are also a bit misleading. Because sales tax is collected on items other than purchases at stores, such as restaurant meals and hotel rooms, the amount of tax in the summer months swells due to visitors’ need for shelter and food rather than necessarily their desire to go shopping. This is reflected in the kind of items being purchased during the different months.

To illustrate, the table below provides data from different retail sales types for Escambia County in 2017. The table compares June purchases with those made in December.

As the numbers reflect, there is a pronounced seasonal effect in Pensacola on retail purchases for these categories. Visitors have a definite impact on total retail sales but not all product categories are affected equally. The same is true for the holidays.

Last year, taxable spending at retail stores in the Pensacola MSA amounted to $1,281.33 per person in the two-county area. The National Retail Federation is predicting over a 4% increase in national level holiday sales this year, so this number might be higher for this December.


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