Sales Tax Revenues Up 5 Percent

Henrico County's sales tax revenue grew by 5.1 percent during the first quarter of its 2011 fiscal year, compared to the same quarter during the 2010 fiscal year – an encouraging sign for county officials.

During the same quarter, the sales tax revenue in Richmond fell by 23.7 percent, while Chesterfield witnessed a 0.6 percent decline and Hanover saw a 1.9 per increase.

Some of the increased revenue to Henrico likely is the result of the implementation of a "Henrico" mailing address in 2008, which continues to help the county capture revenue that was previously sent to Richmond in error, Henrico Finance Director John Vithoulkas said. Henrico's diverse retail base also factors into the rise in sales in the county, he said.

The figures were compiled from the Virginia Department of Taxation.

"I don't think there's any trend we can draw out of it," Vithoulkas said, "but it's a good result leading into the holiday retail season. I think the local resident is tired of hearing all of the negative economic mumbo-jumbo on the nightly news and they're getting back to living the rest of their lives."

Henrico received $13.86 million in sales tax revenue between July 1 and Sept. 30 of this year, compared with $13.19 million during the same time period in 2009. During the same quarter, Richmond's revenue dropped from $8.31 million last year to $6.34 million this year, while Chesterfield's fell from $9.4 million last year to $9.35 million this year.

Hanover County also experienced slight growth, from $4 million during the same time period last year to $4.08 million this year.

The figures reflect sales in June, July and August, which were paid in July, August and September and distributed to jurisdictions in August, September and October.

The most significant jump in sales came in June, when Henrico's sales were up by 7.3 percent over the same month in 2009, while Richmond's receipts fell 42 percent from last June. (Richmond's steep decline was due in part to an adjustment of funds that it shouldn't have received initially.)

Several Henrico business owners who spoke with the Citizen last week painted pictures that reflected the upward trend, while others said they've experienced ups and downs.

One – Neil Chiappa, owner of N&W Salvage in Sandston – said that his business has been steady through the summer and fall, with a small spike upward at times as shoppers look to save money. His store offers a variety of discounted goods and food items that become more attractive in a down economy, he said.

“We saw a customer increase when the economy got worse, and saw people we hadn’t seen before," Chiappa said. The company does little advertising and primarily benefits from word-of-mouth promotion.

Other Henrico businesses rely in part on the goodwill they've built through their involvement in the community. Saxon Shoes President Gary Weiner noted that his company helps between 300 and 500 children each years with its "Shoes for the Needy" project and routinely works with Bright Beginnings and United Way to give away 450 new pairs of shoes to underprivileged children.

“We try and do as much as we can, as often as we can, with the resources that we have,” Weiner said. “If everybody gave a little, nobody would have to give a lot.”

Saxon's strong reputation in the region helps too, and Weiner said that business is up from the same time last year at the Short Pump Town Center location. Now isn't the time for businesses that are succeeding to become complacent, Weiner insinuated.

"People are particular about how and where they spend their money,” he said.

Midas of Richmond's four area locations (including two in Henrico) saw a 7.5 percent increase in revenue during the summer months and an 11 percent increase from last year, according to owner Mark Smith.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in traffic," he said, attributing his success to steady advertising plans and charitable efforts for Virginia Blood Services, Meals on Wheels and the Central Virginia Foodbank, which Smith is often heard promoting in his advertisements.

“What we’re doing seems to be working," he said, "so we just try and stick with what works."

At the eight local Mexico Restaurant locations (including three in Henrico), sales were slower in recent months, according to co-owner Maria Garcia, but the restaurant has tried different strategies to boost business.

“We’re trying to get more customers in to have a good business," Garcia said. "Profits aren’t the same as they used to be a few years ago, but we’re doing all we can and hopefully customers come back after they see the things that we have to offer.”

"Overall we’re hanging in there."

– Amy David contributed to this article.
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