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Sales tax, retail sales show Victoria on an upswing

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
July 10, 2010 at 2:10 a.m.

Dianna Carey, of Woodsboro, looks at necklaces at Foster Creek Station. Carey bought her friend a gift certificate after she was told about the store.

From purses to planters, boots to boats, Victoria boasts a variety of retail shops to cater to Crossroads residents. And it appears those residents are taking advantage of those offerings.

As the national economy works to right itself, Victoria's retail industry has seen an upswing.

The city of Victoria collected $4,535,675.44 in sales tax income during 2010's second quarter, according to the state comptroller's website. That's slightly up from the $4,489,073.43 collected during 2009's second quarter.

Victoria's Foster Creek Station saw a 6 percent increase in May from the same time last year, said Susan Teinert, who co-owns the boutique with Joyce Foster. The big sellers seem to be Yellow Box flip-flops, Brighton jewelry and dresses, she said.

Teinert attributed her increased business to improved consumer confidence.

"They're just able to spend a little bit more on things for themselves," she said, explaining that, year-over-year, sales are about even.

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what contributes to the local rise, said Joe Harper, director of the University of Houston-Victoria's Small Business Development Center.

Like Teinert, he said it appears there's been a shift in consumer confidence. Whether that shift is here to stay or temporary, however, has yet to be seen.

He urged retailers to work with a plan.

"We're cautioning our clients not to increase inventories a great deal," he said. "Let's take a measured response to this thing."

Merchants should deal with inventories that are currently moving and don't have a long shelf life, Harper said. The longer an item sits on a shelf, the longer it takes for a business to see a return on the investment.

"We're not saying, 'Load up because you think it will sell,'" he said. "We're saying, 'Look at what fits the current cash flow cycle.'"

The crew at Texas Tool & Hardware has remained busy in recent months, but the type of business it's seen has changed, said Keith Redburn, the company's president. Residential construction took a hit last year but commercial construction is alive and well.

Two years ago, a job might garner three or five construction businesses bidding on it, said Redburn, whose company sells doors, hardware and accessories. Now it could be up to 20 companies bidding.

Walk-in business is down, Redburn admitted, explaining people are trying to stretch their dollar further and make due with tools they have at home.

"All in all, we're very busy right now," he said. "We're not making as much money as we'd like to, but we're very busy."

Victoria's numbers follow the national trend, which showed a 6.4 percent retail sales increase during 2010's second quarter, according to a United States Census Bureau news release.

While quarterly numbers were up, May numbers were on the decline nationwide, likely because consumers maintain some uncertainty regarding long-term economic stability, Gary Locke, the United States commerce secretary, said in the release.

"Overall, consumer spending has increased modestly this quarter, and as Americans continue to cut down their debt, financial positions will improve," he said. "That will help spur future economic growth and help put people back to work."

Recent rain has also boosted the local agricultural industry, said Gill Dollins, who owns Victoria Farm and Ranch Supply. The area is coming out of a two-year drought, he said, which hurt everyone in the industry.

Lawn and garden sales are on the rise at Dollins' store, he said, as is horseback riding equipment. Grass is growing in the fields and the calf market looks to be good, he said, explaining he expects good things down the road.

And not only for agriculture.

Oil and gas and other industries are faring better, too, Dollins said, and things are going to get better.

"We've seen better days, but we've seen worse," he said. "It's on the up."

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