2013-03-06 / News

County businesses’ sales bounce back in 2012

By Michael Buettner

Sales at businesses in Chesterfield County hit an all-time high last year, outpacing the growth rate statewide and marking a full recovery from the recession.

According to figures released last week by the state Department of Taxation, the county’s businesses posted $3.7 billion in sales of items subject to Virginia sales tax in 2012. That was up 6.1 percent from the $3.5 billion in sales in 2011, and was the largest annual percentage increase since 2006.

The 2012 total also topped the previous all-time high of $3.6 billion set in 2007, indicating a full recovery from the recession that started in the last three months of that year. Over the next two years, the downturn led to a decline of nearly a quarter-billion dollars in county businesses’ sales.

Chesterfield’s 6.1 percent increase was well above the statewide gain of 4.9 percent last year, though it was outpaced by a couple of the county’s regional competitors. Hanover County’s taxable sales rose 6.9 percent in 2012 while Richmond saw a 7.8 percent increase. Sales in Henrico County rose a more modest 3.6 percent.

However, of those four counties, only Chesterfield has now exceeded its pre-recession high. Hanover’s sales last year remained 4.3 percent below the 2007 high; Henrico’s sales were still down 0.6 percent and Richmond’s were down 3.2 percent.

Most of Chesterfield’s growth in 2012 occurred in the first half of the year. The second quarter marking the county’s biggest three-month period ever, with taxable sales totaling $961 million. However, the pace slowed noticeably in the second half, with sales falling 4.5 percent in the third quarter and another 0.3 percent in the final three months of the year.

Leading the second-half slump were many of the same industries that posted big gains in the first six months of the year.

Food services and drinking places – the Department of Taxation’s term for restaurants and bars – saw sales fall 25.5 percent in the July-December period.

Building materials and garden supply stores saw a seasonal decline of 20.3 percent as sales slowed after the spring construction and planting peak.

Also reflecting seasonal factors, gas stations posted a 9.2 percent second-half decline, in large part because of a decline in average gas prices from an April high of about $3.93 per gallon to a December low of about $3.03.

On the industrial side, chemical manufacturers saw taxable sales decline 12.7 percent, in part reflecting reduced exports due to a slowdown in the Eurozone economy.

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