Ringing Registers

Retail sales shatter another record

by Leslie Turk

Lafayette Parish taxable sales topped $6.4 billion in 2014, a 6.5 percent increase over 2013.

Despite the drop in oil prices and uncertainty that’s creating for the Lafayette economy — heck, maybe it’s because people were paying less at the pump — retail sales broke yet another record last year.

It’s hard to predict the impact falling oil prices will have on the retail sector locally. On the one hand, the resulting job losses in the oilpatch mean people have less to spend. On the other, people are paying less at the pump and have more disposable income.

One thing we do know: So far retail has remained on a record-breaking pace, ending the year at $6.41 billion in total taxable sales, up from $6 billion in 2013. That’s a nice 6.5 percent increase.

For the first time in history, single-month retail sales surpassed the $600 million mark in Lafayette Parish. December sales of more than $669 million, the highest on record for the month, reflect an increase of 12 percent over December 2013. That’s huge.

“The 2014 holiday shopping season exceeded expectations, and total retail sales easily exceeded the $6 billion mark reached in 2013,” Gregg Gothreaux, president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority, said in a press release announcing the record-breaking year. “In three years retail sales have increased $1 billion showing the stability of the economy and the confidence of local consumers to invest in big ticket items. As the year progresses, LEDA will closely watch retail sales for signs of change.”

Through December, Lafayette Parish had 10 $500-million-plus months, up from five in 2013, LEDA notes. Sales in nine of the 11 months reported are the highest on record for the month; and nine months are higher than December 2010 sales, when numbers began to rebound from a decline in 2009.

Overall, building materials — led by a record-breaking year in residential home sales — was the best performing category in 2014, increasing 20.2 percent. Other categories show increases ranging from 7.6 percent to 0.4 percent.

As with retail sales, 2014 hotel/motel receipts outperformed 2013 totals. December hotel/motel receipts totaled $5.6 million, putting the 2014 total 9.3 percent higher than 2013.