Philadelphia Soda Tax Leads To 30-50% Plunge In Sales, Mass Layoffs
When Philadelphia became the first US city to pass a soda tax last summer, city officials were eagerly looking forward to the surplus-tax funded windfall to plug gaping budget deficits (and, since this is Philadelphia, the occasional embezzlement scheme). Then, one month ago, after the tax went into effect on January 1st we showed the tax applied in practice: a receipt for a 10 pack of flavored water carried a 51% beverage tax. And sincePA has a sales tax of 6% and Philly already charges another 2%, the total sales tax was 8%. In other words, a purchase which until last year came to $6.47 had overnight become $9.75.
What happened next? Precisely what most expected would happen: full blown sticker shock, and a collapse in purchases.
According to Philly.com reports, two months into the city’s sweetened-beverage tax, supermarkets and distributors are reporting a 30% to 50% drop in beverage sales and - adding insult to injury - are now planning for layoffs.
One of the city's largest distributors told the Philadelphia website it would cut 20% of its workforce in March, and an owner of six ShopRite stores in Philadelphia says he expects to shed 300 workers this spring. “People are seeing sales decline larger than anything they’ve seen up to this point in the city,” said Alex Baloga, vice president of external relations at the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association.
Since all of this is taking place as previewed in a recent post: "The 'Soda Police' Just Learned A Valuable Lesson About Taxes", we doubt it would come as a surprise to anyone, although we are confident that Philadelphia city workers will be amazed by these unexpected developments.
Sure enough, in response instead of admitting the tax was a bad decision, the city lashed out by launching the latest "fake news" campaign, when it questioned the legitimacy of the early figures and predicted that customers responding to the initial sticker shock by shopping outside the city would return. “We have no way of knowing if their sales figures and predicted job losses are anything more than fear-mongering to prevent this from happening in other cities,” said city spokesman Mike Dunn.
Mayor Kenney harshly rebuked reports of coming layoffs late Tuesday night.