Consumer spending continued to soar in May in Lafayette Parish, with total retail sales topping $600 million for the third straight month for the first time on record.
Spending is up nationwide, so much that the National Retail Federation amended its outlook for the rest of the year to almost double the growth in sales it predicted as pandemic-related restrictions continue to get lifted and more Americans get vaccinated.
In Lafayette Parish, that has resulted in a 26% growth rate over last year in total retail sales and a 19% from 2019 before restrictions were put in place, according to data from the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. Sales in May were the highest on record for the month and the fifth-highest on record for any month.
“Our community continues a healthy rebound from 2020,” LEDA president and CEO Gregg Gothreaux said. “This is the first time we’ve had sales over $600 million for three consecutive months. LEDA’s forecast through May shows the potential for another record-breaking year with projected taxable sales between $6.8 and $7.3 billion.”
The continued surge is sales is more due to pent-up demand from buyers now that restrictions are being lifted, said Gary Wagner, Acadiana Business Economist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Moody College of Business. The amount of money people saved during the pandemic had reached a historic level by mid-year 2020, and now that money is being spent.
Another factor, Wagner noted, is the $300 federal unemployment benefit on top of the state unemployment that many residents are still receiving. State officials will stop accepting the federal benefit at the end of the month.
“Now that they have a little bit more confidence that it’s not all doom and gloom, they’re spending money again,” he said. “People weren’t spending so much last year. I think part of what you’re seeing too people are traveling but they are traveling within the United States. International travel is not anywhere near what it’s been historically. You can take a lot of that money that maybe somebody is spending here that they would have spent in another country.”
Men’s and women’s apparel continue to be the big items consumers are buying in Lafayette Parish with women’s clothing sales almost double the sales by May 2020. Shoe stores and specialty stores are way up as well.
Sam Yu, owner of the Maylea stores in the Acadiana Mall in Lafayette as in the Mall of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, said sales were up 20-30% so far this year. More of that came from the Baton Rouge store, he noted, which is a larger store in a much bigger market.
“I guess everybody is getting that stimulus and it kind of helped out,” he said. “The stimulus checks definitely helped us as a retailer. Coming out of the pandemic, people are starting to return to the mall. Comparing it to last year, it’s nice to see more traffic flow. People have been cooped up at home. There’s only so much they can do as far as online shopping.”
Sales in the city of Lafayette topped $421 million, the third straight month to top $400 million after never reaching that total in consecutive months. The city is up 16% from 2019’s total sales and 26% from a year ago.
The other municipalities have similar increases from a year ago: Carencro was up 49.6%, Duson 33%, Youngsville 28%, Scott 21.6% and Broussard 14.8%. Compared to 2019, sales in Carencro are up 57% and Youngsville was up 36%.
Data points of note from the city of Lafayette include:
- Sales at restaurants were at $38.9 million, up nearly 13% from two years ago.
- Sales of women’s clothing topped $3 million in May and is nearly double what it was a year ago.
- Sales at shoe stores topped $2.4 million, putting sales 80% ahead of last year’s pace.
- Jewelry sales topped $10 million for the third straight month for the first time in six years.
- Hotel/motel taxable sales topped $4 million, putting the yearly amount at 34% ahead ahead of last year when the pandemic forced many of them to nearly close.
- Sales at music stores are up 54% from a year ago.
Sales tax collection numbers are gathered by the Lafayette Parish School System.