Kingsport, Bristol lead Q1 Tri-Cities retail sales increase


ETSU Economist Dr. Steb Hipple is reporting that retail activity increased in Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City during the first quarter despite severe weather conditions.

“Compared to 2014, Bristol sales were higher by 4.4% to $250 million, Kingsport sales rose 4.4% to $379 million, and Johnson City sales were up 2.0% to $457 million.  Due to lower energy prices, the overall price level was unchanged on a year-to-year basis.  With no inflation, sales volume increases were also 4.4% in Bristol, 4.4% in Kingsport, and 2.0% in Johnson City.  In comparison, retail activity rose 2.7% in the metro area, 3.2% in Tennessee, and 2.3% in the United States.”

In his analysis of the Q1 numbers Dr. Hipple wrote, “Retail performance continued to be good in all of the markets covered in this report, despite concerns about the impact of the severe winter.  At the national level, the retail expansion has now reached twenty-one quarters, surpassing the twenty quarters of growth achieved in the previous 2002-2007 business cycle.  In the region and the state, retail merchants reported strong sales growth for the third quarter in a row.  Bristol has been the sales leader in the metro area for the past three quarters, but most of the growth has been on the Tennessee side of State Street.

“ At the end of May, the government reported that real GDP declined at a 0.7% annual rate during the first quarter, stirring fears of a possible slowdown in the national economy.  This decline however was based on seasonally adjusted production data.  On a year-to-year basis, real GDP was higher by 2.7% – a rate of growth that matches the 2.0% increase in employment and the 2.3% higher retail sales volume.  The national business expansion remains on track.

“The strong retail growth in the regional economy matches the continued employment growth in the Tri-Cities (as measured by the Current Employment Survey).  As discussed in the last labor market report, the CES payroll data provides the more accurate picture of employment conditions in the area.  The more widely used Current Population Survey paints a false picture of declining employment, yet it is the source that is routinely used in labor market discussions.

“The business outlook for the region and the nation remains positive.  At the national level, production and employment and income and retailing continue to increase (especially as measured by the more accurate year-to-year comparisons).  In the region, payroll employment and retailing have been improving.  The ongoing national business recovery will continue to provide support for better business conditions in the Tri-Cities.”

His report can be found at


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