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Dr. F. Steb Hipple, Professor of Economics, and Research Associate, BBER

Retail sales spike in Bristol, report says

June 15, 2012

BRISTOL, Va. — Bristol’s retail sales for the first quarter of 2012 made a dramatic, $32 million jump – nearly 14 percent – over the same period last year, according to a report released Wednesday by East Tennessee State University.

The reason for the substantial increase is unclear, but the report, covering receipts from January to March, states that increases were seen in all retail markets. And, those receipts in Bristol do include sales at several new restaurants that opened recently.

“Something apparently happened in the first quarter ... above and beyond what you’d expect,” said Steb Hipple, the economist with ETSU’s Department of Economics who authored the report.

In his analysis, Hipple said that the numbers indicate consumers are “willing to spend.”
From January to March of this year, Bristol sales peaked at $260 million, while it hit $228 million in sales for the same period in 2011. Adjusted for inflation, retail volume grew by 10.7 percent in Bristol.

Across the Tri-Cities metropolitan area, dollar sales increased for the eighth quarter in a row with a nearly 6 percent increase during the first quarter, when adjusted for inflation, according to the report.

Nationally, retail sales jumped 5.2 percent during this year’s first quarter.

The report looks at both retail and food service sales. Although the report does not give a reason for the improved sales, the new restaurants that opened in the Exit 7 area of Interstate 81 in Bristol, Va., in recent months include the Mellow Mushroom in middle December and Cheddar’s in January. An Olive Garden opened in the area in May so its sales weren’t included in the first quarter figures.

The spike came after a relatively lackluster 2011 holiday sales quarter in the Bristol area that pulled in $277 million compared to $264 million the previous holiday quarter, the report states. It’s the flat, holiday sales quarters followed by the sudden, 13.8 percent increase during this year’s first quarter that leads Stipple to believe something new is in the mix.

“I’m asking you, what happened?” Hipple said with a laugh.

By Michael Owens. Source: TriCities.com