Retail sales for Christmas are critically important in the annual economic performance of individual businesses, their employees, and via sales taxes, in the financial health of municipalities.
Tupelo's chief financial officer, Lynn Norris, said Tuesday sales tax revenue in December is crucially important because it is the largest month for collections (about 11 percent of the yearly total, higher in strong sales years).
Shane Homan, senior vice president of the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo, said seasonal sales impact retail profits, retail jobs and the financial stability of cities and towns.
Strong retail sales in the November-December measuring period affect employment, which is more likely to hold steady and increase with good profits. Homan said 40 percent of the workforce in Lee County lives outside Lee County, so if retail sales in Lee County aren't strong, total regional employment is affected.
Homan said Internet sales, which usually do not contribute to local employment, sales tax revenue or profitability are becoming a serious factor in planning for local businesses.
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr., who has a lifelong retail background, said mayors from across the South expressed similar concern at a recent conference he attended because sales tax collections usually aren't made on Internet purchases.
Reed and Norris both noted a strong uptick - 5 percent and 6 percent respectively - in sales tax revenue in the first two months of the 2012 fiscal year. Norris said a sustained increase would put city revenue at about the level it had achieved before the recession began in late 2007 and 2008.
Reed said conservative budgeting for a 1 percent increase was the smart choice for Tupelo, but if revenue growth is maintained, some of the agenda items delayed or scaled down could be added.
In a similar vein, Reed said retailers view November and December sales as critical to their bottom lines, with strong seasonal sales often providing the confidence to maintain strong employment during the normally leaner months.
A key national indicator suggests a stronger outcome for this holiday season. The Gallup survey conducted Nov. 3-6 found Americans said they would spend an average of $764 on gifts this season, a 7 percent increase over 2010.
The 7 percent increase points to a modest increase in 2011 holiday retail sales. The forecast over the past decade has largely paralleled holiday sales.