Construction and renovation work at a number of industrial plants and other facilities in East Baton Rouge Parish was enough to give retail sales a jump in May.
Overall sales — excluding autos — in Baton Rouge and areas outside the city limits increased 5.4 percent to $617.1 million in May, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to a monthly sales tax report issued by the city-parish.
The spending figures are based on the 2 percent sales tax collected by the city-parish.
The increased spending was largely because of purchases associated with industrial plants outside the city limits, where sales jumped 15.5 percent in May.
“In the parish, you’ve got several of the plants that are doing renovations in the industrial area and they’re capital intensive,” said Marsha Hanlon, director of finance for the city-parish, explaining the increase in sales. Also, retail centers like the Mall of Louisiana and Perkins Rowe lie outside the city limits.
Baton Rouge sales, however, showed a 2 percent drop, though this may be somewhat misleading, said Hanlon.
“For the month of May in the city, last year, we had a taxpayer enter into a ‘voluntary disclosure agreement’ and paid many years of taxes at one time, for that particular month,” she explained. “Had it not been for that one voluntary disclosure agreement, the city would have been up as well. So we’re not concerned with that slight decrease for May.”
Consumers and businesses in Baton Rouge spent $327.2 million on groceries, retail items and other purchases during the month of May. Shoppers outside the city limits spent $289.9 million.
All told, shoppers in East Baton Rouge spent just over $3 billion from January to May. Most of this amount — $1.7 billion — was spent inside the Baton Rouge city limits, while nearly $1.4 billion was spent in areas outside the city limits from January to May. These amounts do not include car sales.
The breakdown of sales in May showed:
• Manufacturing, which makes up 10 percent of spending parishwide, was up 2.4 percent in May. The utilities sector — which makes up less than 1 percent of tax collections — saw the biggest gain, jumping 45.8 percent in May. Food sales dropped slightly, slipping 2 percent.
• Vehicle sales inside the city limits climbed 9.9 percent to $23.2 million in May. Auto sales in the parish rose 19.1 percent to $24.3 million.
• Sales related to construction climbed 12 percent, and sales related to wholesale trade dropped 3.2 percent in May.
• Mining — a tiny fraction of the Baton Rouge economy — dropped 93.2 percent.