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Retail Sales Starting to Trend Up

December 2, 2011

During this time of year, retail sales become a key economic indicator. Early indications are that the 2011 holiday shopping season got off to a record start with consumers spending an estimated $45 billion over the weekend after Thanksgiving. Retail sales dipped during the 2007-09 recession and have been slow to recover, so this early indicator is a hopeful one. A more confident consumer will help spark what has been a slow economic recovery.

The chart below shows retail sales by quarter and a smoothed four quarter moving average. (Taxable retail sales differ from retail sales in that some items like some medical equipment and farm machinery are exempt from sales taxes so their sales are not included.) Regional retail sales peaked in mid-2008 before declining with the recession throughout 2009. The latest data available, through the 2nd quarter of 2011, shows regional retail sales starting to trend up again, but still not at pre-recession levels.

Within the metro, 36 percent of these taxable sales ($8.98 billion) occurred in Johnson County. Jackson County was a close second with 32 percent ($8.07 billion).

On a per-capita basis, retail sales in Johnson County stands out again. Johnson County has retail sales in excess of $16,000 per person. Platte County is second with more than $15,000. All other counties are below the metro average of $12,414 per person. Retail sales taxes are a key contributor to revenues for many local governments. It would appear that this source of revenue might be heading back to the days of steady growth.

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