Pandemic shutdowns cut NC retail sales by 13%

Posted July 15, 2020 7:32 p.m. EDT

— New sales tax reports provide a glimpse at how the coronavirus-related shutdowns in April affected the state economy, as well as what people were – and were not - spending money on while at home.

April was when North Carolina was mostly closed down due to the pandemic. Although Gov. Roy Cooper started limiting some business activities in late March, his stay-at-home order didn't take effect until March 30, and he didn't start easing restrictions until May.

Tax figures show retail sales statewide in April were down about 13 percent when compared with April 2019.

The hardest-hit sector was hotels and lodging, where sales were down 77 percent compared with the previous year.

Clothing and apparel sales were down 58 percent, while restaurants were down 41 percent.

But some sectors actually did better during the pandemic:

  • Groceries were up 3 percent compared with the year before.
  • Lumber and building materials were up by 4 percent.
  • Consumer merchandise sales were up 5 percent.

Those last two categories make up a significant part of the overall total, which probably helped to keep the revenue hit from being worse.

North Carolina’s economy actually fared better in April than the national economy did.

From March to April, the U.S. saw retail sales fall about 17 percent, but that month-to-month decline was only 11 percent in North Carolina.

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