|District-Assembled Vehicle Sales Growth 2008â??09|
|Source: Automotive News|
|New Vehicle Registrations|
|Source: R.L. Polk|
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, national retail sales in September fell 1.5 percent from August, although core retail sales (excluding autos, gas, and building supplies) rose 0.5 percent. Total retail sales were dragged down by a 10.5 percent decline in auto sales from August to September, reflecting the conclusion of the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program. Retail sales overall remained well below year-earlier levels but have decreased at a slower rate for the past five months.
September sales tax revenue was down on a year-over-year basis in every state throughout the District. Only Florida saw sales tax revenue decrease at a slower pace than in August; sales tax revenue decreased at a faster rate for all other District states.
On a month-to-month basis, retail tax revenues decreased for every state in September. Sales tax revenue fell 1.9 percent in Alabama, 0.5 percent in Florida, 6.6 percent in Georgia, 16.7 percent in Louisiana, 11.8 percent in Mississippi, and 1.1 percent in Tennessee. Overall, District sales tax revenues have fallen 5.3 percent on a month-over-month basis and 15.7 percent from a year earlier.
The results from our informal survey of District retailers were more positive than in August. Contacts reported that September sales and traffic were higher than last year's level, and retailers were satisfied with inventory levels. District retailers were also optimistic for the coming months.
Contacts across the District reported dismal traffic and sales in Septemberâ??a sharp contrast to the outstanding August sales pace that was driven by the CARS program. Florida dealers reported that traffic in September was 40 percent below comparable levels in 2008. District-assembled vehicle sales through September declined 28 percent from a year earlier; the nation's decline was 27 percent.
For the three-month period ending July 2009, District new vehicle registrations declined 27.6 percent. Nationally, registrations dropped by 27.1 percent.
Smith Travel listed six District cities among the top 25 U.S. tourist markets in September. All six cities had occupancy rates below the national level. Miami was the only District city that had higher revenue per room than the national average. In the Miami-Dade market, August tourist taxes declined 20 percent from July, the third-worst month for the industry since the financial crisis began a year ago.
According to District contacts, tourism activity continued to decline, but the pace of decline slowed. Contacts expressed optimism for the coming years, with expectations of activity picking up slowly in 2010 and into 2011. Convention-related bookings for 2010 and 2011 (both airline and hotel) have already outpaced current levels across much of the District.
In August, Mississippi Gulf Coast gaming tax revenues fell to slightly over $96 million from $104 million in July. Gaming revenues are down 7.5 percent compared to a year earlier and down 13.5 percent on a month-over-month basis.