Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Do taxes matter?

Apparently for retailers in Massachusetts this past holiday season. Business is down!
Holiday sales at local merchants dropped 2.6 percent compared with the same period in 2008, the third straight year of declines in Massachusetts, according to a survey released yesterday by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

Results of the 2009 survey of 3,100 business owners were in line with the association’s projection of a 3 percent drop for November and December sales. That comes on top of a 7 percent plunge during the same months in 2008.

Some businesses, including jewelers and home goods shops, saw a small uptick in Christmas sales, but the recession, coupled with an increase in the state’s sales tax, made it another tough year for Massachusetts merchants, according to Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

“Retailers were more prepared this year with lower inventories and lower expectations,’’ Hurst said. “This year’s decline isn’t as bad as 2008, but that was really the worst holiday season that the retail sector had seen in a long time.’’

Research firm ShopperTrak yesterday reported that sales across the country rose 1.7 percent for the 2009 holiday shopping season while traffic at shopping centers dropped 2.9 percent for the same period. Winter weather also seemed to take a toll in New England, with BJ’s Wholesale Club blaming a severe snowstorm before Christmas for taking away sales.

Hurst and other local merchants suggested Massachusetts fared worse than other states because of the sales tax increase. State lawmakers hiked the sales tax in August to 6.25 percent from 5 percent.
BHI's analysis of last year's tax hike is here.

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