Kingsport-Bristol joined Memphis as the only metro areas in Tennessee with year-over-year sales tax collection declines in July. Kingsport-Bristol posted the biggest decrease in the state and July was the second straight month its collections have seen month-over-month decreases.
Statewide collections were up a modest 0.9% increase from July last year.
Here in Northeast Tennessee the Johnson City and Knoxville metro areas paced the statewide pattern while Morristown knocked it out of the park with a 4.7% increase from last year.
July’s collections also afforded the three-county Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) the largest share increase of Tri-Cities collections since September 2014.
Kingsport-Bristol’s share of the $32.2 million in collections was only $140,000 larger than the Johnson City metro sales. Since 2016 Johnson City’s median share of the regional total sales tax collections have been 48.5%. For July, it increased to 49.5%. The significance is Johnson City’s market share pits it against a four-county region with the increased retail muscle of the Pinnacle in Bristol. For all indications, the Pinnacle’s retail reach has been more of a drain from the Kingsport-Bristol market with little affect in the Johnson City metro area. That was what Pinnacle developer Steve Johnson predicted before the outdoor destination retail/entertainment project celebrated the Grand Opening of its Bass Pro anchor.
U.S. retail sales recorded their biggest increase in seven months in July. Motor vehicle sales and discretionary spending were the primary drivers. Economists saw that as a sign that the economy was still gaining momentum at the beginning of the third quarter.
While regional retail numbers were not available, Tri-Cities retail sales tax collections took an opposite year-over-year and month-over-month track from the U.S. numbers. July’s decrease of 0.6% followed a 2.4% drop in June. Compared to July last year, Tri-Cities collections were down 2.2%.
U.S. consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, was up 2.8% in the second quarter. Retail sales account for about 40% of consumer spending.
Here’s how collections and the year-over-year comparison looked for NE Tennessee metro areas:
Morristown – $9,445,000, up 4.7%.
Knoxville – $76,833,500, up 0.8%.
Johnson City – $16,010,400, up 0.5%.
Kingsport-Bristol – $16,150,700, down 4.8%.
The month-over-month comparison was:
Johnson City – up 2.8%.
Morristown – up 2%.
Knoxville, up 1.7%.
Kingsport-Bristol, down 3.7%.
Data source: Middle Tennessee State University Jones College of Business “Tracking Tennessee’s Economic Recovery” and the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations
In looking at the raw numbers it is anybody’s guess why…One could conclude that since the overall sales volumes in Johnson City versus Kingsport-Bristol are about the same at $16m and the increase in Johnson City offsets the decrease in Kingsport that the Johnson City retail customers may be traveling less to the Pinnacle and staying home to spend retail money in their home town. Either way as a region posting $32m in total sales is still less than half our neighbors 100 miles away in Knoxville are posting at $76m+.
If you look at retail sales tax collections per capita the Tri-Cities lags Knoxville by almost 30%. Maybe we can look at demographics for part of the answer. Generation X is replacing Baby Boomers in the prime retail marketplace. In numbers, Gen X is about 33% smaller than the Baby Boomers. While Knoxville’s population is a little better than 50% larger than the Tri I suspect if we did a break down on the generational shares it would shed more light on the question. That’s based on the assumption that we’d find Knoxville’s share of Gen X has a higher share than the Tri-Cities. Just the difference in the population share of these two groups points to lag of a little more than 30% of retail activity. That’s just a theory. I haven’t tried to run the numbers.