Syracuse restaurants took a $170 million hit in pandemic and other shocking economic stats (analysis)
Syracuse, N.Y. – Onondaga County residents doubled online shopping during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic – adding a whopping $226 million to spending at Amazon-like stores.
People spent a third more on wine and liquor – adding $23 million. Meanwhile, bars lost half their business, a staggering $16 million. Restaurants took a huge hit, losing $170 million, more than a quarter of typical business.
For the first time, the local economic impact of all the dramatic changes in the first nine months of the pandemic can be detailed in real dollars and cents to see just how much the pandemic changed our lives.
Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard analyzed New York state sales tax records in Onondaga County from March 2019 to November 2020 – the latest available reports by businesses of their sales and purchases.
The records document the new ways people found to eat, stay healthy and entertain themselves at home.
People stocked up on beer and wine, ordered boats, renovated their houses and put in pools.
They turned to local vegetable and meats producers and planted gardens.
Overall, Onondaga County’s taxable sales and purchases dropped, but not as badly as nationally or downstate. Taxable sales were $6.7 billion from March to November, down 6% from $7.2 billion the year before. The county may end the year down only 2.6% after a strong December, according to NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
No one has suffered the shutdown economy more than restaurants. In the spring, summer and fall of 2019, people in Onondaga County spent about $631 million in restaurants. In that same time in 2020, they spent $463 million, a 27% drop.
Restaurants in the county fell in and out of coronavirus restrictions. Some chose to close temporarily to try to ride out the pandemic. Others will never reopen.
Several bars have also closed while the state continues to enforce a 10 p.m. closing time. Bar spending was cut in half, a loss of $16 million.
Meanwhile, customers bought more alcohol to drink at home. Beer, wine and liquor store sales increased by $23 million, or 30%.
Automobile dealers are typically the largest generator of sales taxes, so it was no surprise that public officials fought for them to reopen quickly.
Still, the industry suffered a 14% decrease in sales and purchases. That’s a loss of $130 million – from $899 in 2019 to $769 in 2020.
Spending at gas stations was also down, by 22%, as people stayed home from work and school and postponed road trips. People also rented fewer cars and put off car repairs.
Hotels remained open as essential businesses, but spending on travel accommodations was down by 65% over the year before. Few people took vacations or traveled for business as the pandemic took hold of the country. Many weddings were postponed under rules that limited attendance and dancing.
A whopping $438 million was spent in online shopping, up 106% percent from $212 million.
That is likely underreporting how much people really spent online because of the way the state tax department categorizes retailers. The number includes only Amazon-type warehouses and retailers that have only an online presence.
Online shopping at stores like Target.com – places that have in-person stores in the state – is counted along with sales at the store, not as online shopping. People spent another $438 million at warehouse clubs and supercenters. That’s an increase of about $32 million, or 8%, over the year before.
As people doubled up their online shopping, specialty in-person retail stores suffered. Department store sales were down 23%. Clothing stores lost 32% of their business. Electronics and appliance stores saw a 19% drop. Sales also declined at stores that sell books, furniture, shoes, jewelry, luggage and leather. Even grocery stores saw a 2% decline.
While people were stuck at home, they spent money on renovations.
Household and institutional furniture and kitchen cabinet makers saw a 40% increase.
Cement and concrete sales were up 44%. People spent about $425 million at building material supply dealers, a 19% increase.
People spent $14 million at lawn and garden equipment and supply stores, a 9% jump, and $4.7 million at greenhouses and nurseries, a 34% jump.
As tens of thousands of adults and children worked and learned from home, they spent $18.7 million, up 22%, on data processing and hosting.
Still, residential home construction was down 31% and the people who put the finishing touches on new construction lost 23% of sales.
Entertainment venues were among the first to close and will likely be the last to open. There was no New York State Fair in 2020. Concerts were canceled. The Carrier Dome was closed to spectators.
In a usual year, people spend about $4 million on spectator sports in Onondaga County. In 2020, they spent $855,000, a 78% drop.
Spending on movies dropped from $8 million to $1.3 million – an 84% decrease.
People spent their travel money instead on boats, bikes, snowshoes and other hobbies. Sporting goods, hobby and musical instrument stores had an 11% bump in sales.
Amusement and recreation includes golf courses, ski resorts, fitness centers, bowling alleys and more.
Lenders did well in the pandemic.
The region lost 35,000 jobs last year, pushing many deeper into debt. Interest rates were low for those in a position to buy a home.
People spent $14 million, an increase of 17% on the category that includes credit card financing, mortgages and other consumer loans.
About the data: The numbers come from the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance. The department collects the data from more than 3 million items reported on about 250,000 sales tax returns filed quarterly. That means the numbers do not show activity in industries that are not subject to sales taxes.
Contact Michelle Breidenbach [email protected] 315-470-3186.
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