I read a great article in the NY Times this morning, “Virus Alters Where People Open Their Wallets, Hinting at Halting Recovery.” Mississippi is a main character in the story. Our own Richard Shapley, owner of Ely’s Restaurant is quoted in the article. Look for other states in the graphs. I would have posted a link, but you won't be able to get it without a subscription. If you can’t get to it and are interested, let me know. I’ll see if I can find a workaround.
A quote, “How people spend will determine which companies survive, and who ultimately keep their jobs.” The pandemic has not been even-handed in the economic pain it has doled out. Which companies are thriving? Home improvement stores and e-commerce. Bars are dying but liquor sales are healthy. Sit down restaurants are hanging on by their fingernails, while fast food restaurants with their drive-thru windows are doing well.
And national numbers don’t tell us what is happening in our neighborhoods. With the shutdown, retail sales dropped nearly 50% nationally, but, in Mississippi, the decline was only 25%. Nationally, the recovery in spending is not back to last year’s levels… except in Mississippi. Believe it or not, Mississippi’s retail numbers are 17% higher than last year. Hmmm…
Nationally, retail sales increased 1.2% in July over June’s sales. Sounds good, right? Well, that spending has been subsidized by the fiscal stimulus. Back to Mississippi—maybe, just maybe, many of our citizens actually had MORE money in their pockets this year because of expanded unemployment and PPP. IF that is the story behind our variance, don’t expect this to hold.
For now, the federal trough has run dry. Our data is always backwards-looking, so we won’t know how this plays out until we see August’s numbers. If Congress stalls until September, Mississippi may “revert to the mean,” or, worse yet, end up once again at the bottom of the barrel. Stay tuned, and stay safe!