Shoppers pour into Target in this Black Friday photo. The store and the other national retailers at the new Kingsport Pavilion have helped fuel Kingsport's recent sales growth.
Kingsport bucked the national trend in the third quarter by posting nearly double-digit retail sales growth.
According to the latest retail report issued Monday by East Tennessee State University, Kingsport generated $330.9 million in retail sales in the period, up 9.9 per- cent vs. the same time a year ago.
The city’s new shopping choices at the Kingsport Pavilion helped fuel the sales growth. The new shopping center on Highway 11-W features national retailers such as Target, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Michael’s and Books-A-Million.
The Pavilion’s construction followed the establishment of East Stone Commons, which features stores such as Hobby Lobby, Ross, T.J. Maxx, Pier One and PetSmart.
“The new retail infrastructure that’s been developed has returned a lot of Kingsport dollars back home that had been going to other areas,” said ETSU economist Steb Hipple.
He said Kingsport is gaining market share “at the expense of both Johnson City and Bristol.”
“And it’s a shrinking pie right now,” Hipple said. “Retail activity for the metro area as a whole is declining, and at some point this retail expansion in Kingsport, which has been very strong — it’s going to come to a shuddering halt.”
Retail growth is already in the negative column in Johnson City and Bristol. During the third quarter, retail sales in Johnson City fell 2.2 percent to $437.8 million vs. the same period of 2007, while sales in Bristol declined 3.7 percent in the quarter to $280.9 million.
Adjusted for inflation, sales volume grew 4.4 percent in Kingsport and declined 7.1 percent in Johnson City and 8.6 percent in Bristol.
In the Tri-Cities Combined Statistical Area (CSA), retail sales grew slightly by just less than 1 percent in the third quarter vs. the year-ago period. In comparison, sales fell 4.8 percent in Knoxville and declined 3.2 percent in Chattanooga during the same time.
Adjusted for inflation, sales volume fell 4.1 percent in the Tri-Cities, declined 8.1 percent in Chattanooga, and decreased 9.6 percent in Knoxville during the period.
Meanwhile, retail sales decreased 2.4 percent in Tennessee and grew just 1.2 percent across the nation. Adjusted for inflation, sales volume in Tennessee fell 7.4 percent and declined 3.9 percent in the nation.
Hipple said the numbers show what the National Bureau of Economic Research has announced — that the country is indeed in recession, and has been for months.
“The experts have finally admitted what everyone already knew — the economy was in the grips of the worst business downturn in a generation,” Hipple said.
He said the local economy mirrors the national trends, and business conditions are expected to get worse.
“The general expectation is that the bottom of the downturn will not happen until next spring. After that, there is no guarantee that the economy will immediately rebound into a strong recovery,” Hipple said.
He said the recession has been intensified by the financial sector’s struggles. And those difficulties “could well delay any business recovery until late in 2009,” he said.
The retail sales report is based on state sales tax collections and is benchmarked to the 2002 U.S. Census of Retail Trade. The report is available for viewing online at http://facult y. e t s u . e d u / h i p p l e s .