What a difference a year makes.

Last year Lafayette Parish retail sales got off to a sluggish start, trailing 2009 by 14 percent during the first two months and still off almost 11 percent by March. Sales soon after began to close the gap, however, and we ended 2010 up a small 0.78 percent, thanks in large part to a strong showing in December. December sales topped the $517 million mark, making it the fourth highest month on record for the parish, and total sales for the year were $4.8 billion. It was a clear sign of the parish’s resilience in the face of the drilling moratorium.

And it appears that the momentum is carrying over into 2011. For the first two months figures are already ahead 8.64 percent, with February showing a 9.5 percent increase over February a year ago. Sales in January totaled $369.8 million, and in February they grew to $382 million.

After climbing steadily since 2002, retail sales slid 11.61 percent in 2009, falling to $4.8 billion. But if the current increases hold, they will mean more tax money for local government­­ — for both capital funds and the general fund. It’s too early to know if 2011 can outpace the record $5.4 billion set in 2008, but it promises to be an uphill battle: January and February of this year are down about 10 percent compared with the first two months of 2008.

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