Early numbers show a record setting year for Alabama holiday sales

$5 million extra collected in online sales tax in November 2016

Alabamians opened their wallets in record setting numbers this holiday season. And nationwide experts say the economy had one of the biggest bumps in retail sales in a decade.

If you went near a shopping center this holiday season you most likely dealt with heavy traffic outside and inside the stores. "The week leading up to Christmas the retailers were just going gangbusters," said UAB Professor of Marketing, Bob Robicheaux.

And it wasn't just the week leading up to Christmas. The Alabama Department of Revenue numbers are out now for November. The numbers show a $10 million increase in sales tax from November 2015.

Numbers for December won't be released until February but Robicheaux expects a large increase for that month as well. "Believe we're going to have probably the highest holiday sales since maybe 2005."

In November Amazon started collecting Alabama sales tax. About 70 other online retailers are also now collecting Alabama sales tax. So you may think the online retailers contributed to the $10 million extra in sales tax this past November but the Department of Revenue says "no." The department says that $10 million figure is strictly from brick and mortar stores. Sales tax collected from online sales is reported differently. It falls under the "simplified sellers use tax" in their abstract revenue reports. According to those numbers there was more than $5 million extra in online sales tax collected in November 2016 than November 2015. That means with the additional sales tax from physical stores and online retailers there was an increase of more than $15 million.

Robicheaux says all the additional sales tax is good for the state because a lot of it will go to the general fund. "Goodness knows we've been in budget crisis for the last couple of years... paying the sales taxes is what pays for the schools and the streets and the police protection we all need."

And added sales tax obviously means there were more sales. The Department of Revenue says that $10 million extra sales tax collected from physical stores means there was about $260 million extra in sales.

Robiceheaux says more people spent more money this holiday season because of consumer confidence. they felt secure in their jobs and like the economy was going in the right direction.

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