Retail sales fall $112 million in Lafayette

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Illustration by Peter DeHart

The gist: April sales numbers released by LEDA highlight the economic fallout from the state’s coronavirus lockdown. Total retail sales in the parish in March and April fell $112 million in 2020 when compared to the same months in 2019. 

Nearly all of those losses, 97%, happened in the city of Lafayette. In March and April 2019, the city of Lafayette had $747 million in retail sales. In March-April 2020, that total fell to $638 million. So out of the $112 million in lost retail sales parishwide, $108 million of that shortfall happened in city limits.

That represents more than $2 million in lost sales tax revenue. The city of Lafayette collects 2% sales tax, and 35% of this sales tax revenue goes into the city general fund. So this drop means a reduction of $700,000 in city general fund revenue. The remaining $1.3 million loss reduces the city’s capital fund.

Broussard, Duson and Scott also saw reductions. Broussard lost $6.4 million, Duson lost $800,000, and Scott lost $2 million in retail sales when comparing March-April 2019 to 2020.

But Carencro, Youngsville and unincorporated Lafayette actually gained sales. Carencro gained $1.1 million, Youngsville $2.3 million and unincorporated Lafayette $2.2 million in retail sales when comparing last year’s performance over these two months.

To some extent these changes continue trends from the last few years. In 2016, the city of Lafayette accounted for 74% of retail sales in the parish. But the city’s share of parish retail sales has fallen every year since, bringing it down to 67% so far this year. This trend is due at least in part to the development of more retail in the outlying municipalities. For example, Youngsville’s share of parishwide retail sales has risen from 3.5% to 5% over this same time period.

Part of these changes is likely due to the impact of the coronavirus on consumer purchasing patterns. With the state shutdown and people worried about minimizing their travel around town, it makes sense that more people would be shopping closer to home. This trend has a negative impact on the city of Lafayette’s historic position as a retail hub for the region.

Lafayette did perform slightly better than national retail sales. Across the country, retail sales fell 16% from March to April of this year. But in Lafayette Parish retail sales only fell 13%. And in the city of Lafayette retail sales fell 14%.
Officials expect losses to continue. “As the overall economy continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19, low oil prices, and the impending hurricane season, we expect to see additional declines in taxable sales through the summer,” LEDA CEO Gregg Gothreaux said in a press release announcing the sales activity.