The Northwest Arkansas economy continues to drive sales tax revenue gains through the first seven months of 2017 well ahead of last year’s pace. The four largest cities in the region reported cumulative sales tax revenue this year of $38.468 million, up 7.89% over the $35.654 million reported in the year-ago period.
This summer has been a period of growth as sales tax revenue rose 8.9% in May, 8.12% in June and 10.93% in July compared to the same periods a year ago. July also set another record for total revenue for that month across the region.
July revenue reflects consumer spending in May. Each of the cities collect a 2% local sales tax on top of the state tax for goods purchased and services rendered. Half of that 2% local tax goes toward debt repayment with the respective cities and the other 1% is funneled into the city’s operating budget. This report reflects the latter.
In July, Bentonville had another stellar month with collections totaling $1.204 million, up 26.46% over a year ago. July comes on the heels of a 26.25% improvement in June and 18.31% growth reported in May. Wal-Mart shareholders events caught the tail-end of May which brings several thousand guests the that city and the region.
Of course Crystal Bridges Museum continues to be a main attraction for the city and region. Beth Bobbitt, director of public relation for the museum, told Talk Business & Politics the museum is on track to beat last year’s attendance record of 622,000. She said the Chihuly exhibition has been popular, attracting nearly 80,000 viewers since late May. There is a $20 cost to attend the Chihuly exhibits located in-doors and in the forest as well. Bobbitt said a typical exhibit usually garners between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors during its full run and Chihuly is blowing those numbers out of the water.
Chihuly’s indoor exhibition will close Aug. 14 but the outdoor art will remain until Nov. 13. The cost will be reduced to $10 for the outdoor exhibit only on Aug. 15, she said. Bobbitt said local traffic comprises about 50% of the total visits to the facility, a stat that has remained fairly consistent since the museum opened in November 2011.
Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin has said Crystal Bridges Museum, restaurant and gift store are one of that city’s biggest sales tax generators. He said the city continues to budget conservatively because at any time they can see a deep rebate because of the scale and level of business of their largest employer.
Springdale also continues to turn in strong sale tax revenue growth this summer, rising 18.2% in July, behind 10.27% growth in June and 15.76% gains in May. The biggest sales tax draw for the city in recent months has been the new Sam’s Club which opened in late May ahead of the Memorial Day Weekend. Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse said the one week Sam’s Club added to the city’s sales tax surprised everyone.
Ironically the larger two retail areas in the region have seen slower growth than their peer cities of Springdale and Bentonville. Fayetteville’s sales tax revenue rose 4.91% in July to $1.82 million, a record July for the city and the second best month so far this year behind February which reflects December sales.
For the first seven months of this year Fayetteville added $12.347 million from sales tax revenue, up 4.15% from the $11.855 million reported a year ago. Fayetteville’s sales tax grew an average 4.60% in 2016, down from 7.51% the previous year when Whole Foods opened in north Fayetteville. The opening of Sam’s Club in Springdale could siphon off some of the sales tax revenue from the Sam’s Club in Fayetteville, which is also in the midst of a remodel as well as being located in an area of road construction projected to be completed by the end of this year
The opening of J.J.’s on Dickson Street in Fayetteville and live entertainment in that eatery is helping to bring more residents downtown on weeknights this summer when the University of Arkansas is mostly vacant of on-campus residents.
Rogers’ sales tax revenue through July totaled $10.754 million, up 7.61% from the same period last year. In July sales tax revenue rose just 2.33% from a year ago against a very tough comparison. After being flat in May, revenue rose 2.32% in June, well below the comparable 9.6% and 7.32% growth reported in the respective year-ago periods.
Rogers continues to be a destination for retail and restaurants entering the region. Earlier this month Dave & Busters filed a permit with the state health department for a new restaurant and entertainment venue located at 2203 Promenade Blvd., Suite 6000. This is the first venue for the adult-playground eatery in the region. There is a location in Little Rock, but the closest Dave & Buster’s to Northwest Arkansas is in Tulsa. Like Cabela’s Outdoors in Rogers, Dave & Busters is often considered a destination, not just a restaurant.