Consumer Spending - October 2008
State tax revenue reports indicate that retail sales in September (reflecting activity in August) improved slightly compared to August but remained below year-earlier levels across much of the District.
According to our informal survey of District retailers, September sales were disappointing, with all respondents reporting sales below expectations. The majority of retailers anticipate that holiday sales will be down on a year-over-year basis.
Vehicle sales in the Southeast weakened further in August and September. District new vehicle registrations dipped 22 percent from a year earlier while national registrations were down 17.5 percent on a three-month moving average basis ending in August. The decrease in District registrations was mostly due to declining truck and SUV sales. For September, contacts from leading distributors reported sales declines across all models except subcompact vehicles. Sales of District-assembled vehicles through September were down 17 percent from a year earlier compared to a decline of about 13 percent nationally. All 25 vehicle models assembled in the District posted declines. Weak demand for full-sized trucks and SUVs has prompted several companies to cut production and hours to work off high inventories.
Tourism in the District remained strong but showed some signs of weakness in August and September. Passenger arrivals at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans increased 17.6 percent in August 2008 compared to a year earlier. International arrivals at Orlando International Airport increased 13.6 percent in August; however, domestic arrivals fell 7.4 percent. Gaming revenues in Mississippi were $85.6 million in September, a 23 percent decline on a year-over-year basis.
Reports of discounting continued to flow in from various parts of the District, but the outlook for the rest of the year remained positive. Miami International Airport will gain traffic from a 1 percent increase in passenger seats compared to December 2007. Cruise lines are expecting strong business and plan to add new and bigger ships to their fleets. September visitors bureau bookings in New Orleans were stronger than a year earlier.