According to early numbers from the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce, it could be a good year for businesses in the city and Albemarle County.
Wednesday morning, the chamber released retail sales tax data in the region from January to March. It's a mixed report, with some areas faring much better than others.
“The good news is that in Charlottesville and Albemarle, in the aggregate retail sales are up 12.2 percent over 2013,” said the chamber’s president, Tim Hulbert.
With $570 million in sales from January to March, it could pan out to be a good year.
Louisa and Waynesboro also saw small increases. Meanwhile, total retail sales were down by nearly 4 percent in Augusta County and by more than 10 percent in Greene County.
“I think that's an anomaly. We're going to look into it. One month does not make a trend so I wouldn't be overly concerned if I was working for Greene County,” Hulbert said.
But some stores in Charlottesville say those numbers don't reflect their business.
“We actually were up in one of our stores, one of our stores was down,” said Joan Fenton, owner of Quilts Unlimited.
Fenton says all the snow this past winter played a major role.
“It wasn't like in 2008 when people were saying, ‘oh I can't buy anything. I don't have the money.’ It was simply, ‘I don't want to go out,’” Fenton said.
She suspects big-box stores are behind the increase.
“I think that the figures that are up are the grocery stores,” Fenton said.
Others agree, saying while the numbers may be up this year, they've been down for so long that it's just a slow recovery process.
Businesses on Charlottesville's downtown mall say since the weather has gotten better they have seen a major jump in sales.
Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce Press Release
(Charlottesville, Virginia – May 21) The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce today released compiled sales & use tax data which show that during 2014’s first quarter (January-March) retail sales activity was mixed across the region – sales rose in Albemarle & Louisa Counties and the Cities of Charlottesville and Waynesboro, while Augusta & Greene Counties showed declines in total retail sales.
Virginia Department of Taxation sales tax data compiled showed that retail sales during the first quarter of 2014 compared to the first quarter of 2013 year were up in Albemarle County +3.79%; in Louisa County, +3.95%; in Charlottesville +23.85%***; and, in Waynesboro +2.37%. Total retail sales were down in Augusta County -3.83%%; and, in Greene County, -10.56%.
*** Reported Virginia Department of Taxation data for Charlottesville was skewed lower in December 2013 as a few larger retailers in the City did not report December sales timely. Consequently, with the December data reported in January 2014, the January 2014 data were skewed upward. In addition, on-going Virginia Department of Taxation audited adjustments for Charlottesville reflect anomalies. (The Virginia Department of Taxation informs our Chamber that the impacts of audits of tax reports between the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County are on-going. Analysis by Virginia Taxation and Albemarle County officials of retail sales reporting revealed that businesses in the County with “Charlottesville” mailing addresses were reported incorrectly as having occurred within the City. The resulting adjustments moved retail sales to the proper jurisdiction. The amount of those continuing inter-jurisdictional adjustments is not readily available from Virginia Tax Department data. Thus the data for Albemarle and Charlottesville in the aggregate provides a more accurate picture of retail in that one retail “marketplace.”)
Over the first quarter of 2014, Albemarle and Charlottesville, the region’s retail hub, in the aggregate, accounted for $569.6 million (+12.2% v. 2013-Q1) in total retail sales (not including motor vehicle or gasoline/diesel sales).
The 2013 Chamber Jobs Report data show that more than 17,800 jobs, 22.4% of all private sector jobs, within the Greater Charlottesville region, are in “Trade, Transportation & Utilities;” most of those in retail.
CRCC Report Shows Mixed Retail Sales Activity throughout Central VAMore>>