Business news from the Fredericksburg region.
Taxable sales at six-year high
BY BILL FREEHLING
Fredericksburg-area shoppers appear to be spending more money, with local merchants reporting their best start to a year since before the Great Recession hit.
Taxable sales for the first three months of 2012 hit about $868 million in the region, according to Virginia Department of Taxation data released Thursday.
That was up 7.7 percent from the first quarter of 2011. It was the most local taxable sales for the first quarter since 2006, when the economy was still running at full tilt.
It was also the eighth straight quarter of year-over-year gains. Most of the quarterly gains have been small, between about 3 percent and 5 percent, suggesting that the recovery has been more of a slow grind than a rapid rebound.
“We are seeing incremental improvement,” said Karen Hedelt, Fredericksburg’s economic development and tourism director. “We’ve had a lot of encouraging news.”
The Fredericksburg region comprises the city and Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties. Each of the five localities had gains year-over-year.
Taxable sales are a good indicator of economic activity, as they include figures from a wide variety of manufacturing, retail and service businesses. Certain data are excluded, including motor vehicles, trailers, semi-trailers, mobile homes, travel trailers, motor vehicle fuels and fuels for domestic consumption.
Regional taxable sales fell 1.7 percent compared with the fourth quarter, but that is almost always the case due to the holiday shopping boost in the last three months of the year. The city of Fredericksburg, with $210.5 million in first-quarter taxable sales, registered slightly higher sales than in the fourth quarter.
King George’s taxable sales rose about 44 percent year-over-year in the first quarter, probably in large part due to last summer’s opening of the Walmart store in the Dahlgren area. Stafford fared second-best, with year-over-year gains of 8.4 percent.
Spotsylvania accounted for about 41.4 percent of the region’s first-quarter taxable sales. Stafford sales constituted about 27.3 percent, followed by Fredericksburg (24.2 percent), King George (4.1 percent) and Caroline (3 percent).
Statewide, taxable sales rose 5.7 percent year-over-year in the first quarter.
Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405