|District-Assembled Vehicle Sales Growth 2008–09|
|Source: Automotive News|
|New Vehicle Registrations|
|Source: R.L. Polk|
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, both national and core (excluding autos, gas, and building supplies) retail sales in December declined 0.3 percent from November. Retail sales were stronger in November than in December, suggesting that consumers did most of their holiday shopping earlier in the season. National retail sales increased 5.4 percent from weak levels a year earlier.
December sales tax revenue continued to be down on a year-over-year basis throughout the Southeast. Five of the six states in the District saw sales tax revenue decline at a slower pace in December than in November. (Louisiana tax revenue for December has not been released.) Overall, sales tax revenue in the region was down 12.5 percent from a year earlier.
On a month-over-month basis, Mississippi and Tennessee decreased at a slower pace in December compared to November. Alabama, Florida, and Georgia experienced positive month-over-month growth for the same period.
Results from our informal survey of retailers indicate that retail sales in the District were slightly better than what was seen nationally. Retailers throughout the District reported that sales either met or surpassed expectations in December. Expectations for holiday sales were conservative, and retailers prepared accordingly by choosing to keep inventories at low levels. Many contacts commented that just-in-time inventory management is becoming a more common practice. In December, most of our contacts reported sales were above year-earlier levels, with most of the strength coming from discount stores and outlets. High-end, luxury stores had a mixed performance during the holiday season.
Contacts across the District reported a pickup in year-end auto sales, which posted double-digit gains in December 2009 from a year earlier. Import brand distributors reported that strong demand for the fuel-efficient segment drove much of the surge in sales.
District-assembled vehicle sales through December were down 21.5 percent from a year earlier; nationally, sales declined 21.2 percent. For the three-month period ending in November, District new vehicle registrations declined 12.9 percent; nationally, registrations dropped by 9.8 percent.
In December, Mississippi's Gulf Coast gaming tax revenues decreased to just over $83.5 million from $87.2 million in November, a 4.2 percent decline. On an annual basis, revenues continued to decline, down 12.5 percent compared to a year earlier.
Smith Travel Research included six District cities in their list of the top 25 U.S. tourist markets in October 2009. Among the six, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, and Tampa had occupancy rates above the national average of 41.9 percent from December 11, 2009, through January 9, 2010. Nashville was the only one of the six below the national average. Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, and Tampa also had average daily room rates above the national average of $39.24 for the same period.
Contacts across the District, especially in Miami and New Orleans, have high expectations for the upcoming months. Both cities will host several events and festivals—the Pro Bowl, Super Bowl, and a boat show will take place in Miami within the next month, and the annual Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans will be in mid-February.