Booze and building materials are hot sellers in Virginia this year. Antiques and office furniture, not so much.
There are plenty of government and private data sources that track retail sales and consumer spending in the United States. Unfortunately, they generally don't break down that spending geographically, so it's hard to tell how consumers in the Washington area in particular are behaving.
One way to get a sense of retail sales at the local level is to examine sales tax receipts by state governments. Around here, Virginia is the jurisdiction that collects and publishes the most detailed information about sales by various types of retailers.
Overall, taxable retail sales in Virginia were $21.7 billion in the second quarter of 2005, up 6.5 percent from the same period in 2004.
The strongest results came from a category described as "taverns, beer parlors, and dance halls," which recorded sales of $9 million in the second quarter, up 23.9 percent over the same period last year, for reasons that are not clear. Building material sales were up 14.1 percent to $1.2 billion, in an apparent reflection of the continuing residential construction boom.
Laggards include antique stores, where sales were down 9.1 percent to $18.8 million, and sellers of office furniture and business equipment, down 4.2 percent to $220 million.
-- Neil Irwin