EBR retail spending down 1 percent in March

Business and consumer spending in East Baton Rouge Parish fell by 1 percent in March and is down 2 percent for the first quarter, figures released by the city-parish Finance Department show.

Retail sales tax collections indicate spending — not including often-volatile vehicle sales — totaled $708.5 million in March, compared with $716.3 million that month in 2012.

The figures are up against year-ago numbers that were buoyed by the national bowling convention, which boosted key segments from February through July of last year.

Most of the decline was within the city limits, where spending fell 4 percent. In the outer parts of the parish, spending rose just over 1 percent. The city limits make up 53 percent of the total spending pie, while the area outside is 47 percent. Retail trade, the sector that makes up 53 percent of the total, was basically flat in March, with the only significant decline in the undefined “other” category. That category makes up 9 percent of the total and fell 6 percent in March.

The numbers got a lift from manufacturing, which was up just under 4 percent and makes up 10 percent of the total, and vehicle sales, which rose 8 percent and makes up 8 percent of the total.

For the quarter, retail trade is flat as well, while manufacturing is down 4 percent, vehicles are up 13 percent and the “other” category is down 17 percent.

Total spending in the first quarter was $1.91 billion compared with $1.94 billion a year ago. The city was down 4 percent for the quarter, while the outer areas of the parish, which include major retail corridors like Bluebonnet and Siegen, were up 1 percent.

City-parish officials have said the numbers will have a difficult time matching the figures for a year ago through the spring and summer, as the roughly 70,000 bowlers and their guests goosed spending through July 2012.

Looking at sales tax collections by the city-parish, March totals were down 0.3 percent to $15.4 million. For the year, collections are down 0.6 percent to $41.8 million.