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Big-box boom led to record
A look at third-quarter taxable sales data in the Fredericksburg area

Date published: 12/22/2012

BY BILL FREEHLING

A jump in sales at big-box retailers appears to have driven much of the overall gains that the Fredericksburg region experienced during the third quarter.

Taxable sales hit a record high in the Fredericksburg area during the three months ending Sept. 30, according to Virginia Department of Taxation data. The region had $919.2 million in taxable sales, up 5.5 percent from the same period in 2011.

General merchandise stores, defined as retailers that sell a large variety of goods from a single location, made up about a third of the region's total gains, according to the data.

Much of that appears to be due to the opening of the Walmart store in the Dahlgren area of King George County. General merchandise sales rose nearly 148 percent year-over-year in King George during the third quarter. The Walmart opened midway through the third quarter in 2011.

Among the other single stores that appeared to impact the third-quarter data was the former Best Buy in the Cosner's Corner area of Spotsylvania County. The store closed May 12.

Taxable sales at electronics and appliance stores in Spotsylvania fell about 55 percent year-over-year. Regionwide, taxable sales for that category rose 10.3 percent, suggesting that former customers of the Spotsylvania store went elsewhere to shop. Best Buy still has stores in Central Park and Stafford Marketplace.

Taxable sales are a good indicator of economic activity and consumer spending, as they include figures from a wide variety of manufacturing, retail and service businesses. Local governments derive a significant part of their budgets from the sales tax.

King George logged the region's best year-over-year gains in the third quarter, at 18.8 percent. Fredericksburg (up 9.6 percent), Stafford (up 5.4 percent) and Spotsylvania (up 2.8 percent) also had gains, while Caroline's taxable sales slipped 2.1 percent from 2011.

Among the other discoveries of note from an analysis of the third-quarter data:

Area motels and hotels appear to have had a solid third quarter. Taxable sales in the "accommodation" sector rose almost 16 percent year-over-year.

Sales at stores that sell furniture and home furnishings rose 9.1 percent, and stores that sell building materials saw gains of 1.7 percent. Both could be a sign of an improving housing market, a trend reflected in sales and price data as well.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com