Saturday marks the official opening of Christmas at Great Bend as Santa makes his triumphant entry into the Home for the Holidays parade and festival. Local retailers are hoping that among the goodies in the St. Nick’s pack is a successful Christmas tide season.
So far, things look pretty cheerful, said Christina Hayes, director of the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau and community coordinator. She based this cheering assessment on sales tax and visiting customer tax trends.
“It looks like a very good outlook for the next two months,” she said. “The trends are on the rise.
Small businesses around the world have pivoted to serve a post-COVID-19 business landscape, she said. Now, consumers are on the verge of returning to traditional stores this holiday season.
“I think our businesses really deserve a lot of kudos,” said Hayes of how the local owners have adjusted. Local stores offered curbside service and online sales to complement their in-store operations.
According to the National Retail Federation, consumers plan to spend an average of $ 997.73 on gifts, vacation items and other non-gift purchases for themselves and their families this year. And, nearly 2 million more people than last year are expected to shop from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday, as they continued the trend of starting holiday shopping earlier in the year.
Of those who shop on Thanksgiving Day, 65% are likely to do so in stores, up from 50% last year, when concerns about COVID-19 still held many people home, NRF reported. On Black Friday, 64% are likely to shop in-store, up from 51% last year.
Of course, some will buy outside of town, she said. “But, people think local first.”
She sees it continuing. With the possibility of more peaks in COVID cases this winter, more people could choose to stay close to home.
And that’s a big deal.
For every dollar spent in a small business, American Express estimates that an average of 67 cents stays in that business’s local community. This has the potential to boost sales during the 2021 holiday season, with many small businesses still scrambling to make up for the revenue they lost throughout the pandemic.
Now Hayes has said it’s up to businesses to attract customers.
That’s why Hayes and the Town of Great Bend are promoting the annual Explore Great Bend campaign which ends this weekend. With different promotions every Saturday, the goal is to get shoppers to the stores.
Fittingly, this Saturday is also Small Business Saturday, a national effort that encourages consumers to support local businesses with small purchases.
American Express launched the shopping spree in 2010, at the height of the Great Recession, to redirect holiday shopping to local stores. A decade later, it’s seen in all 50 states, and in 2011 the Senate passed a resolution recognizing Small Business Saturday.
“Small Business Saturday is a fun addition to end our Explore Great Bend month,” said Hayes. “This is the day the nation celebrates and recommends shopping ‘small’ and without our wonderful small businesses our retail business wouldn’t be as good as it is. I encourage you to go explore small business and support our community.
Looking at the numbers
One way to gauge the economic vitality of the community while on vacation is to look at sales tax collections, Hayes said.
Until next April, the date of entry into force of the three new municipal sales taxes, the city now has two: a tax of a quarter of a cent (which goes to the needs of the street) and a tax of one. half a cent (which is divided between general fund, economic development and infrastructure). It also receives a portion of the county-wide sales tax.
Taxes are collected by the Kansas Department of Revenue. KDOR then distributes the tax revenue to the city with a two-month lag (August distribution was received in October).
While the holiday shopping season is mostly October through December, August through December 2019 and 2020 and August 2021 numbers are included.
Great Bend Sales Tax Collections
• August – $ 442,484.35
• September – $ 442,576.81
• October – $ 437,055.28
• November – $ 352,479.96
• December – $ 481,447.17
• August – $ 451,661.94
• September – $ 429,653.21
• October – $ 429,653.54
• November – $ 421,842.34
• December – $ 454,826.62
• August – $ 503,591
Heads in beds
When the Kansas Department of Labor released the state’s unemployment figures for September last Friday, KDOL economists noted a rebound in the hospitality and recreation sectors.
In Great Bend, Hayes sees an increase in the local tax on visiting guests collected by the city.
The total for fiscal 2021 was $ 305,660.13. This compares to the total of $ 281,121.51 in 2020 and the total of $ 347,861.21 in 2019.
The tax paid by hotel guests is used to fund the city’s marketing efforts.
Great Bend charges 6% for its tourist tax, which is money collected from people staying at local hotels. Of this amount, 10% goes to the Great Bend Events Center and the rest to promoting the city through the CVB.
Speaking of the event center, Hayes said COVID has hollowed out reservations for the city-owned facility. But, “so far for 2022, we only have six weekends open.”
She said it’s an indication that things are improving locally as well.