Ringing Registers

May retail sales slide nearly 10 percent

The decline in oil prices begins to take its toll.

While January-May retail sales of $2.48 billion in Lafayette Parish are only off 2 percent compared with the first five months last year, taxable sales of $484 million in May represent a 9.5 percent dip compared with May 2014.

Sales tax collections in the parish have likewise fallen 2.7 percent in the first six months of this year compared with the first six months of 2014, a record year in which total taxable sales reached $6.4 billion. Adjusting the numbers to account for the new airport tax in an effort to get an apples-to-apples comparison, $126 million was collected so far this year, compared with $129.5 million last year, a sign that declining oil prices are finally having an impact on consumer spending.

May and June collections (which represent the previous month’s sales) are down 7.8 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively. Adding the airport tax to this year’s numbers creates an increase of 3.6 percent in collections compared with the same six-month period last year.

When looking at the distribution of sales year-to-date within the city, food sales showed the largest increase over 2014, 2.5 percent. Other categories showing increases — ranging from 1 percent to 1.6 percent — are building materials, furniture, auto and other/miscellaneous. Sales were down slightly in general merchandise (-0.7), apparel (-2.3), and general service (-2.4).

As CNN Money reports Tuesday, the price of a barrel of oil has plunged nearly 20 percent this month alone, even briefly dipping below $47 a barrel today. That's close to its March lows, the weakest price since 2009.

“This drop in retail sales is what we expected as a result of lower oil prices,” says Gregg Gothreaux, president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. “We’re hoping retail sales in the second half of the year begin to stabilize as consumers adapt to the new economic climate. Although the likelihood of 2015 reaching $6 billion in sales, a mark we’ve exceeded the past two years, is slim, sales will still be higher than 2012 totals.”

May hotel/motel receipts totaled $7.6 million, 2.9 percent lower than May 2014. Year-to-date hotel/motel receipts are down by 2.8 percent.