Sales tax revenue among the four largest cities in Northwest Arkansas rose 4.27% in the March report, with Rogers and Fayetteville having strong results, while Springdale reported modest gains of 2.78% and Bentonville posted a 9% drop.
Cumulative revenue totaled $5.675 million, the strongest March report on record. Rogers revenue rose 14.2% to $1.582 million. Fayetteville’s sales tax was up 6.66% to $1.78 million. Springdale’s revenue totaled $1.206 million and Bentonville had revenue of $1.095 million.
The March report reflects sales of goods and services in January. The report reflects 1% of local sales tax each city collects toward funding their respective budgets.
City leaders expect revenue for the next couple of months be down as the spread of the coronavirus continues to shutter businesses and keep people at home. Without the ability to hold large meetings or conventions, hotels are struggling as business travel has virtually halted as more are working remotely from home. Restaurants are closed around the state for dine-in service, open only for take-out and delivery.
Consumers are stocking up on everything from paper consumables to health and beauty products and food for themselves and their pets. Grocery sales are up, but experts say much of the buying frenzy is pushing demand forward and stores will likely see a lull in traffic once the crisis has passed.
Most retailers have suspended store operations and are relying solely on online commerce during the crisis. Some retailers like Best Buy, with locations in Rogers and Fayetteville, are providing curbside pickup for online orders given the demand for electronics as more people are having to work from home.
Bars across the region are shuttered and without any college, high school or professional sports to watch. Beef O’ Brady’s in Bentonville was recently airing the Game Show Network while employees in the darkened restaurant worked to fill call-in orders for curbside pickup or delivery. Management at On The Border in Rogers said the Wednesday before venues were told to close, they were packed to the brim. Now the restaurant offers only take out with a skeleton crew and reduced operating hours.
Economists and banking experts expect consumers to pull back on spending as long as there are so many unknowns to process.
“Consumers have been shell-shocked and now they are panicking because there is no one in Washington reassuring them. People need to stop panicking and start thinking,” said Dr. John Dominick, a banking professor and former state banking chair.
Dominick said he expects big losses in U.S. GPD this year from this pandemic, but said the economy can and will rebound when the case numbers start to subside as has already happened in China and South Korea.
“We know it’s coming and we know why it’s coming. This won’t be the end of the world as we know it. We must work together and stop passing blame,” Dominick said.