How Western New Yorkers spent their money during the pandemic

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ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB)–Restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality businesses took the hardest hit last year.. as well as clothing stores and other in-person retail establishments. Fred Floss, Chairman of Economics and Finance at Buffalo State, agrees.

“We are not seeing the sales from those places, and not only are the individuals being hurt but obviously the state is not raising revenues from these areas either.”

On the other hand, the Comptroller’s report shows “electronic shopping”, online sales, mail-order houses, Amazon flourished. Another area of growth, wine, liquor, and beer sales. Dan Locche of Straight Up Wines & Liquors in Kenmore says business was up by 30-to-50 percent.

“People are staying home, they are eating at home, and they are socializing at home with their own family members. So they go out less, that means they are spending more for their home entertainment.”

If you exclude New York City, the state comptroller reported sales tax collections across the state would have been off by less than one percent. Erie County’s sales taxes were off by twice as much, one-point-8-percent, but Professor Floss says it could have been worse if Western New Yorkers did not stay home and spend their money.

“We went out during the Christmas holiday and New Year’s holiday and we spent money which is good for sales tax, but not so good for health care.”

Floss says Buffalo did better than Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany, in part, because folks here are more likely to patronize local businesses. A spokesman for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says this shows more federal action is going to be needed to avoid a double-dip recession.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.

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