Retail spending in EBR up 6% in October

Sales tax collections show 6 percent spike in activity

Retail spending in East Baton Rouge Parish rebounded in October after two lackluster months, rising 6 percent compared with the same month the year before.

Businesses and consumers spent $647.7 million, up from $611.1 million in October 2011, the latest sales tax collection figures released by the city-parish show.

City-parish Finance Director Marsha Hanlon said the services sector was particularly strong in October, rising 21 percent. The category was led by the hospitals subcategory, which more than doubled.

Spending was up less than 1 percent in August and September — the two months after the end of the five-month national bowling tournament that pumped an estimated $113 million into the local economy.

But October bucked the trend.

The retail trade category, which makes up half of all spending, rose 5 percent, slightly more in October than in the previous two months.

Hanlon said two categories — furniture and home furnishing stores and electronics and appliance stores — led the way, noting increases in sales of large durable goods is a good sign for the economy.

“That’s what I really like to see an increase in,” she said.

Vehicle sales, which are not included in the overall totals because they tend to be more volatile, continued to show strong gains, rising 28 percent in October and are up 13 percent for the year.

October’s retail spending gains came from within the city limits, up 3 percent after falling the two prior months, and outside the city limits, rising 10 percent in October after edging up only about 3 percent the two prior months.

For the year, spending is up 7 percent to $6.57 billion. It is up 4 percent within the city limits and up 10 percent in the outlying areas.

Total tax collections for the city-parish, which do include vehicle sales, were up just under 8 percent in October, at $14.1 million from a year ago. For the year, collections totaled $142.2 million, a 7 percent increase over the first 10 months of 2011.