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At $3.68 Billion, 1Q Local Retail Sales Virtually Flat

Officials believe retail sales statistics to be significantly understated, but revised measurement slow in coming; CDA’s Sosa Pascual sets August start for new system


July 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Whether because of the slow economy or because of significant underreporting, the fact is that, at $3.68 billion, local retail sales for January 2002 through March 2002 were barely an improvement over the $3.65 billion registered for the same period last year.

Meanwhile, the more than two-year-long process of updating the Commerce Development Administration’s (CDA) monthly reporting of retail sales statistics is nearly complete, agency administrator Antonio Sosa Pascual told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.

Sosa Pascual, who inherited the project from predecessor Luis Velez, said his goal is for the new system to be up and running by August. The date could be modified, he warned, depending on the results of a review of the project, which was contracted out to consulting firm Consultec in March 2000.

"This is a priority for the administration and for me personally," Sosa Pascual said. "It’s essential to measuring consumer confidence in Puerto Rico."

The CDA administrator revealed that the statistics continue to be prepared each month with methodology that was last revised in 1984. However, because of the deficiencies of the sampling configuration—which is what prompted the CDA to revamp the system—the agency has not been releasing the figures.

"The deficiencies, including not accurately measuring sales by megaretailers and by other significant segments, are such that the numbers really don’t reflect what’s happening," Sosa Pascual said.

Nevertheless, with the aforementioned caveat, Sosa Pascual showed CARIBBEAN BUSINESS survey results that indicate retail sales so far this year are essentially flat compared with last year.

"The report showed retail sales in January, February, and March 2002 of $1.27 billion, $1.17 billion, and $1.24 billion, respectively," said Sosa Pascual. "That compares with $1.26 billion, $1.17 billion, and $1.22 billion during the same months of 2001."

In addition to finally putting in place a methodology that accurately reflects the full scope of islandwide retail activity, Sosa Pascual said the administration has determined it also wants to be able to break down the results by region.

"The eastern region can be booming, for example, while the western region is lagging," the administrator pointed out. "That information is important for us in terms of guiding our efforts and our priorities regionally, in line with the strategy of developing distinct regional economic poles in Puerto Rico."

Sosa Pascual said that once the new system is up and running, the agency plans to release the statistics no more than two weeks after the end of each month reported.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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