As the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic occurred on March 16, 2020, New Braunfels and the world were faced with new challenges. These challenges continue to morph daily as we become more aware of the virus characteristics, which allows us to better protect ourselves (and others) from the spread of the virus. There is an exhaustive list of changes that have occurred since March 16th – but one of those changes that really took some creativity to understand was the impact to our local businesses, and ultimately the local economy.
NBEDC Staff looked at several ways that we could measure the impact on the local economy, and most of the solid indicators are a lagging indicator – such as sales tax revenue. We really needed to define a leading indicator to measure the economic impact. One of the early discoveries was that we could use some of the similar data that we were already collecting as a measurement tool – after all, we already were tracking this data.
The Consumer Impact Dashboards (that can be found on the NBEDC website or Facebook page) are weekly snapshots of consumer shopping habits tracked by cell phone data. The information is very accurate, and the vendor has even changed some of their protocols based upon the EDC Staff requests. The data from these cell phone sources has trended very similar to the lagging indicator – sales tax revenue receipts that are provided by the Texas Comptrollers Office.
This data that has been published weekly shows that as a city, we are not at the level prior to COVID-19 (which should be no surprise), but we are doing much better than the state and the nation for economic recovery. At our lowest point, the week of April 10th New Braunfels was down 35% compared to the same time frame in 2019 – while the state and nation were down 52% and 54% respectively this same week. Recent trends have indicated that there has been some substantial consumer shopping confidence and the consumer is traversing the local businesses at a rate of minus 13% average compared to the 2019 average. The good news is that New Braunfels still is trending at a better pace that both the state and the nation for economic recovery.
While this has been the wurst (pun intended) summer ever – New Braunfels has fared much better that originally predicted and the economy has recovered faster than the state and national averages. We are looking forward to a return to normal – whatever the new normal may be – to get back to our New Braunfels lifestyle that we have become accustomed to.