A report from Iowa State University shows retail sales in many large and small Iowa cities stabilized over the past fiscal year. Liesl Eathington, an assistant scientist in I-S-U’s Department of Economics, produced the annual analysis.
The report shows average per capita sales statewide grew by less than 1% for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011. “That was a pretty big improvement over the prior year when the state, as a whole, saw a 6.5-percent drop in per capita sales,” Eathington says.
More than half of Iowa’s counties experienced growth in retail sales last year. Iowa’s large metropolitan areas accounted for 64% of the state’s taxable sales.
Eathington says retail sales declined slightly (0.6%) in micropolitan areas – which include cities with 10,000 to 50,000 residents – cities like Fort Dodge, Storm Lake and Mason City. “We saw a lot of job losses in these communities and especially manufacturing jobs, which are the core of the economy in a lot of these mid-sized cities,” Eathington says. “So, the manufacturing and other job losses in these communities would ripple through…affecting the retail sales.”
The analysis found some positive news for Iowa’s rural areas. The state’s 21 most rural counties posted a 4% increase in retail sales last year.
Eathington says it’s difficult to determine how much rising internet sales might be impacting Iowa’s retail sector. “To really get at how internet sales are affecting Iowa’s retailers, you’d really have to do some household level research – such as surveys to find out how (Iowans) are changing their spending habits,” Eathington says. “That’s just not something that we can figure out from the sales tax return data.”