MONROE, La. (AP) — Ouachita Parish's retail activity in 2012 is outpacing the nation's, says Bob Eisenstadt, an associate professor of economics at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Non-auto retail sales are up 5 percent in Ouachita through July, compared to 4.7 percent nationally, Eisenstadt, who analyzes retail sales through sales tax collections, told The News-Star (http://tnsne.ws/SS9TPp ).
"We've seen a consistent indication of strength in the market," he said. "The year started strong and has continued on a solid pace."
Combined sales tax collections for all Ouachita Parish jurisdictions were up 4 percent in July compared to the same month in 2011. Collections have increased in all but two months this year.
Every Ouachita taxing jurisdiction except Sterlington posted gains in July.
The strongest July gains were in the parish: increases were 16.3 percent for the sheriff's office, 15.2 percent for the Police Jury and 6.1 percent for the Ouachita Parish School Board.
Randy Barnett, manager of Pecanland Mall, the largest collection of retailers in the region, said overall sales have been consistently strong throughout the year.
"We had a good July, and preliminary numbers for August back-to-school sales look strong," he said. "We continue to have good momentum leading into the end of the third quarter and the all-important fourth quarter."
Barnett's primary concern as retailers approach the annual make-or-break Christmas shopping season is rising gas prices.
"We're at or above $3.50 per gallon, and we've seen in our market that anything higher than $3.50 can be a tipping point for consumers to pull back on other spending," he said.
Information from: The News-Star, http://www.thenewsstar.com