Consumer Spending - May 2009
April national retail sales, excluding autos, fell 0.5 percent from March; core sales, excluding autos and gasoline, were down 0.4 percent. Retail sales overall remain well below year-earlier levels.
District sales tax collections through April continued to decrease. All District states' sales tax revenues were significantly below year-earlier levels. According to District retailers, April sales were aligned with the national decrease; contacts reported low sales expectations, and their sales and traffic remained at low levels.
April vehicle sales disappointed industry contacts already troubled by Chrysler and GM's bankruptcies. Regional import brand dealers posted double-digit sales declines from a year earlier, with much weaker performances than their companies' comparable national declines. Most contacts were still reporting tight credit conditions, with some finance companies requiring higher down payments and stricter credit guidelines. Florida dealers, who account for about half of District vehicle sales, reported that sales dropped 30–35 percent in April, the seventh straight month of declines. Sales of District-assembled vehicles for the first four months of 2009 were down sharply from the same period in 2008.
Tourism activity in the District remained weak in May. General economic conditions have resulted in consumers canceling vacations, taking shorter trips, and cutting back on expenses. Discounting and promotions to attract visitors were prevalent across the District.
According to the Florida State Tourism Board, tourism fell 11 percent in the first three months of 2009. The decline was led by a sharp fall in the number of international travelers. Domestic tourism was down during the same period, though 22 million visitors travelled to Florida from January to March 2009. Hotel occupancy was down 12 percent in Miami-Dade County and 6 percent in Broward County through March 2009.
The lack of visitors has affected attendance at theme parks in Florida, but new attractions may improve the situation. For example, Orlando's SeaWorld is introducing a new attraction this month and expects to attract more visitors and reduce some losses.
In Mississippi, gaming revenue collections in the Gulf Coast counties declined 3.6 percent in April compared to a year earlier; the decline was much sharper on a month-over-month basis at 9 percent.