The sales tax figures for August, which generally reflect retail purchases from June, remain on an upward track for Brown County cities, and the economic stimulus checks sent out by the Internal Revenue Service surely are a factor in that. But it may be the reports that will be issued over the next two months that are representative of the state of the local economy as viewed by Central Texas consumers.
The September receipts will reflect July sales, for the most part, and July will apparently stand as the month when motorists were hit with the highest gasoline and diesel prices of the season - if not the year. Then the October receipts will reflect sales in August, and a lot of new factors will be weighing in at that time.
It’s back to school, of course, and even with the annual “tax free” weekend involved, the comparison of same months will be telling. Are families spending more or less as they prepare to send their children back to class? Retailers, among many other observers of the economy, are anxious to find out.
Another important trend that could entice consumers to the check-out with baskets full of purchases is the rapid decline in fuel prices. Relatively speaking, and from an historic perspective, the costs of a gallon of gasoline and diesel remain high. But they are already down considerably from their peak levels of just a few weeks ago, and some further softening seems likely, according to many experts. Will that give households some disposable income that they will use to make up for lost time at their favorite retailers?
Only time will tell. And with an election in November, candidates are as anxious as anyone to find out those results, not only in Texas, but throughout the nation.