Retail sales trend up in March

Staff Writer

After a sluggish first two months, retail sales perked back up in March across North Mississippi.

The latest sales tax revenue figures show taxes collected on March retail sales were up in 48 of 95 cities across the region compared to the same month last year. That was the best performance in four months.

And while Columbus and Starkville, the second and fourth largest retail centers in the region, continued to lag behind last year, other major centers ran ahead of last year.

Area civic leaders hope the stronger numbers are a good sign going into the spring and summer months and may be an indication that retail trade can hold off some of the pressure created by increased online purchases, most of which aren't taxed. Losses of those sales tax revenues have been a growing contention among cities and legislators because sales tax revenues provide 40 to 50 percent of most cities' operating revenues.

According to the state Department of Revenue, Columbus received $900,223 in sales tax revenues, down slightly from $905,532 last year.

Starkville saw a larger percentage drop, from $635,535 last year to $623,936 this year.

Taxes collected on March retail sales and reported to the state in April and than 18.5 percent is dispersed back to the cities where the taxes are collected in May. Taxes collected at businesses outside of municipal limits all are kept by the state.

Perhaps the biggest news in the Golden Triangle was in West Point, where the city received $178,313 this year, compared to $$181,491 last year.

While it was still behind, it is the closest the city has come to the previous year since it started paying the state back for an overpayment the state made more than a year ago.

West Point leaders hope retail growth on Highway 45 Alternate, especially on the southern edge of the city, will offset the repayments and set the city up for strong revenue growth once the repayment schedule is completed next year.

In Lowndes County, the smaller cities of Caledonia, Artesia and Crawford all saw increases. In Noxubee, Macon and Shuqualak saw declines and in Oktibbeha County, Sturgis was up over last year.