An economy many believed would be pounded by the drilling moratorium that resulted from the BP disaster proved its resilience in 2010, as retail sales in Lafayette Parish inched slightly above 2009’s figures.

Doom and gloom scenarios played out almost daily in Lafayette Parish, the hub of the oil service sector, in the latter part of 2010 as the offshore drilling industry sat idle under a government-imposed drilling moratorium. The permitting process has yet to loosen up, despite an official lifting of the moratorium in mid-October, but consumer spending nonetheless increased over the past five months. December sales topped the $517 million mark, making it the fourth highest month on record for the parish.

December's strength lifted total retail sales in 2010 to $4.8 billion, 0.78 percent higher than 2009. Not bad considering retail sales got off to a rough start, falling more than 14 percent during the first two months and almost 11 percent in March, compared with the first three months of 2009. The turnaround that fueled the overall increase started in April.

“When 2010 began with a 14 percent deficit from 2009 many people in the community were concerned the national recession had finally hit Acadiana, says Gregg Gothreaux, president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. "However, month by month, total retail sales closed the gap until finally surpassing 2009 numbers with a successful December. These steadily-increasing numbers show the resilience and diversity of the local economy even when faced with national economic woes and consequences from the drilling moratorium.”

retailsaleschart

 

Since about mid-year, LEDA’s models were predicting a better year-over-year performance, and by late in the year the organization expected December retail sales of $500 million-plus. It was right on the money in both cases.

But we still won’t nearly get where we were in 2008. Lafayette Parish retail sales fell 11.6 percent in 2009, dipping from the $5.4 billion the year before. Before the drop-off, sales had increased steadily since 2002. Read more about retail sales in the parish in the next issue of ABiz, out on newsstands Feb. 23.

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