Pandemic fuels local shopping patterns

D.E. Smoot, Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.
·2 min read

Feb. 23—A global health pandemic might have triggered something local officials have been trying to get residents to do for years: shop closer to home.

Sales tax revenue reported during the past several months proved better than anticipated. City Manager Mike Miller said he hopes the trend continues as life returns to post-pandemic normal.

"There is a lot less travel going on in general — less business travel and certainly less recreational travel," Miller said. "That is bad for some of tourism-related businesses, obviously, but people here are spending there money here, and I hope that is a habit they like and get used to going forward."

Pointing to sales tax revenue, Miller said retail sales have been strong the past few months. He said that should be encouraging news for retailers and a "sign that they can do well in Muskogee."

Strong retail sales are good news for municipalities, which rely on sales tax revenue to fund many services upon which residents depend. Miller cited the demand for services in response to the extreme winter weather as an example.

Miller said clearing streets of ice and snow and repairing water lines that burst as a result of extremely cold temperatures and again during the thaw increases operational costs for all municipalities. The increase in local retail sales, he said, provides a cushion for city coffers, offsetting those costs.

"This is getting to us right at the time we have all the additional expenses," Miller said. "We have a lot of people working overtime when they need to, and we have sand and materials we will have to replace, so it's good to know we have a little more money coming in than we planned."

Miller said while the pandemic might have triggered the significant shift as to where consumers are spending their money, Muskogee is a destination of choice for lots of consumers.

"The city really benefits when our citizens shop local," Miller said. "I certainly hope it is a trend that will continue long after the threat of COVID-19 is gone."