|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 August rose 2.7 percent from July, and retail sales excluding autos increased 1.1 percent. Core retail sales (excluding autos, gas, and building supplies) rose 0.7 percent. The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program, high gas prices, and back-to-school purchases were responsible for much of the increase. Retail sales overall remain well below year-earlier levels but are at the highest level since October 2008.
August sales tax revenue is down on a year-over-year basis in five of the six District states. (August data have not been released for Louisiana.) Florida, Georgia, and Alabama saw sales tax revenue decrease at a slower rate than in previous months. In the other District states, sales tax revenue decreased at a faster rate. The sharpest decline was in Mississippi; that state's revenue was down 36.9 percent from August of last year.
On a monthly basis, only Georgia's tax revenue increased from July by 0.9 percent. Alabama's tax revenue was down 0.5 percent, Florida's was down 1.3 percent, Mississippi's was down 0.5 percent, and Tennessee's was down 1.9 percent. Overall, District tax revenues have fallen 6.8 percent on a month-over-month basis and 13.4 percent from a year earlier.
According to our informal survey of District retailers, 79 percent of respondents reported their August sales were below year-earlier levels, with both traffic and inventories remaining low. District retailers have mixed expectations for the coming months.
The CARS program strongly boosted traffic and sales during August. Regional import-brand manufacturers reported improvement in sales from a year earlier, with fuel-efficient vehicles driving the increase.
District-assembled vehicle sales through August declined 29.6 percent from a year earlier; the nation's comparable decline was 27.9 percent. Mercedes and Nissan posted the worst sales performances, down 39 and 41 percent from a year earlier, respectively. Most of the vehicles assembled by these companies are full-size SUVs and trucks, market segments that are suffering from the recent shift in demand to fuel-efficient vehicles.
For the three-month period ending July 2009, District new vehicle registrations declined 27.6 percent. Nationally, registrations dropped by 27.1 percent.
Despite the slowdown in District tourism activity, Smith Travel Research ranked Miami as second in average daily room rates, third in revenue per available room, and fifth in occupancy (at 67.2 percent) among the top 25 markets in the United States from January to July of 2009.
In July, Mississippi Gulf Coast gaming revenue collections were just over $104 million, the highest level since August 2008. Gaming revenues are up 24.0 percent compared to a year earlier and down 9.8 percent on a month-over-month basis.