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FE D E R A L R E S E R V E BANK OF RICHMOND
C A L D W E L L HARDY, FEDERAL RESERVE AGENT

General Business and Agricultural Conditions in the Fifth Federal Reserve
District lor the Month of February, 1921
[C ompiled M arch 15, 1921]

As the year 1921 moves
changed little, the number of
along, signs that the Fifth
unemployed on March 1 re­
CONTENTS
District generally is slowly
maining practically the same
M onth’s Summary.
but surely working back to
as on February 1. Figures
Collections.
normal are accumulating. The
received from wholesalers shoYv7
Par Clearance in North Carolina.
spirit of optimism mentioned
increased sales in nearly all
M onthly Clearings*
in our report for January con­
lines in comparison with Jan­
Condition R eports of M ember Banks.
Debits to Individual A ccount.
tinued through February in
uary, and retail trade figures
Labor.
all industrial and business
show a gain of 8.6% in dollar
Foods,
activities, with the possible
value in comparison with the
Argriculture.
exception of the textile field.
corresponding month of 1920.
Coal.
Textiles.
Building operations increased
The increase denotes a con­
Clothing and Shoes.
78.5% over January’s record,
siderably larger volume in
Building Materials.
and fell only 19.9% below the
number of sales or units of
Building Operations.
February, 1920, valuation in
merchandise sold than the
Retail Trade.
Wholesale Trade.
dollars, which, in view of the
figures indicate, due to lower
Miscellaneous.
greater purchasing power of
prices now prevailing. Re­
the dollar this year, in reality
duction in acreage for both
denotes that construction pro­
cotton and tobacco seems
vided for in February, 1921 was practically the same assured, and farmers are determined to make the 1921
as in February, 1920. February failures reported by crops more economically than for the several years
Dun’s Review, while numerically greater by two than past. Adjustments are being made between employers
in January, were considerably below the previous and employees in the matter of wages as commodity
month in total liabilities. The labor situation has prices continue the downward trend.
COLLECTIONS.— Dun’s Review reports 144 failures in the Fifth Reserve District in February, 1921,
with combined liabilities of $3,170,347, compared with forty failures with liabilities of $1,335,730 during the
corresponding month of 1920. In number of failures reported, February shows an increase of two over January,
but in liabilities January exceeded February by $717,561. The average liabilities in February failures are
$22,016 in comparison with an average of $27,380 for January.
Reports on collections received from thirty-six wholesale firms give the following data:
Collections Reported as
LINES SOLD

Good
4

Groceries............................................
Dry Goods.....................................
Boots and Shoes...............................
Hardware.....................................
Furniture...........................................

1
0
1
0

February T otals................
January Totals...................

6
10

* One reported elow to poor.

Fair

Slow

1
6f

3*

0
5t
1
19
17
f

Poor

0
0
1

Total

3

2
0

8
8
8
8
4

8
6

3
5

36
38

1
1
0

One reported fair to slow.

Of the eleven firms stating definitely that their collections are either poor or slow, seven are located in

the two Carolinas where the inactive markets and the crop-holding movements— principally for cotton and
tobacco— have resulted in delayed payment of debts.




Twenty-five leading retail stores located in fourteen important cities of the Fifth District report collections
satisfactory, with only one exception. Charge sales are less than they were a year ago, due to more care being
exercised in granting credit, but on the whole people continue to buy what they need, and thus exhibit little
decreased purchasing power. Collections in the city stores and the actual increase in net sales reported during
February, 1921, in comparison with February, 1920, would seem to show that many consumers have suffered
no disastrous effects from the curtailment of income.
PAR CLEARANCE IN NORTH CAROLINA.— On November 15, 1920, North Carolina as a whole State
was placed in the Par List of the Federal Reserve System, and until February 5, 1921, we were collecting
checks on all banks in North Carolina. On that day a law was passed authorizing non-member banks and
trust companies to charge exchange not exceeding 1-8 of 1%, and in the case of checks presented at the counter
of the drawee bank by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, an express company, or the Post Office Depart­
ment, or any of its agents, to pay by means of a check drawn on some other bank, instead of cash. Customers’
checks payable specifically in cash, or payable to the State of North Carolina or the United States Government,
were excepted.
While many non-member banks continued to remit to us at par, a considerable number endeavored to
take advantage of the law, and eventually 243 out of the 560 non-member State banks became parties to a
suit in which an injunction was obtained, the result of which caused us to discontinue handling cheeks drawn
upon those banks. Of the 243, however, 24 subsequently made arrangements to continue to remit at par.
From time to time we have issued corrected lists of the banks (parties to the injunction suit) whose checks
we are unable to handle, but, notwithstanding our effort to the contrary, and notwithstanding the fact that
the banks on the injunction list hold only one-seventh of the total deposits in North Carolina, much confusion
has resulted. Merchants and wholesale dealers, both within and without the Fifth District, are finding it
difficult to keep posted as to which non-member banks in North Carolina are paying checks drawn upon
themselves through the Federal Reserve System and which are not, and in many cases checks are being declined
which are collectible as before through the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond without exchange.
A hearing with reference to the case was had by the Superior Court of Union County, N. C., on March 1,
and steps are being taken to have the case transferred to the United States Court and given the earliest possible
consideration.

,

NOTE . — For more detailed information see Circular of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond dated March 5, 1921,
including list of injunction banks.

MONTHLY CLEARINGS
For Month of February
CITIES

No.

1921
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
• 11
12
13
14
15
16

Increase
or
Decrease

Asheville, N. C ............................... $
Baltimore, M d..................
Charleston, S. C ..
Charlotte, N. C . .., ................
Columbia, S. C ..........
........
Frederick, M d....................
Greensboro, N. C ...........
Greenville, S. C ........
Hagerstown, Md.
Huntington, W. Y a............. .
Newport News, Va. .......... .
Norfolk, Y a.....................................
Raleigh, N. C .................................
Richmond, V a.................................
Spartanburg, S. C
....
Washington, D. C ..........................
Totals....................

* Not included in totals.

$

1920

1,042,55833,822,0489,542,737-

21.210.447.0-

14,534,407
1,748,326
5,222,295
11,644,815
2,637,869
7,337,669
3,565,453
43,325,060
7,195,218
250,737,040

6,893,14776,576
1,016,1966,023,971427,08741,140
929,31015,847,0271,902,74869,857,355-

47.4r4.4
19.551.716.2.6
26.136.626.427.9-

64,625,838

1,168,037-

1.8-

148,354,505-

764,179,176

$
-

No.

19.4t

4,929,282
326,380,672
20,295,232

3,886,724 $
292,558,624
10,752,495
8,227,494*
7,641,260
1,824,902
4,206,099
5,620,844
2,210,782
7,378,809
2,636,143
27,478,033
5,292,470
180,879,685
2,634,598*
63,457,801
615,824,671

Per Cent, of
Increase
or
Decrease

$

$

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16

Denotes decrease.

The table presents comparative figures from fourteen cities in the Fifth District for February, 1921 and
1920, and shows a decrease from $764,179,176 cleared in February, 1920, to $615,824,671 for February, 1921—
a loss of $148,354,505, or 19.4%.
This is an improvement over the 25.3% decline reported in January, 1921, in comparison with January,
1920, and in view of generally lowered prices is not discouraging. It will also be noticed that two cities—
Frederick, Md., and Huntington, W. Ya.— show larger February clearings this year than last, which again is
better than the January record, when all cities registered declines.




CONDITION OF EIGHTY REPORTING MEMBER BANKS IN SELECTED CITIES
February 4, 1921

March 4, 1921

ITEMS
Total Loans and Discounts (exclusive of
$
rediscounts)....................................
Total Investments in Bonds and Securities
Reserve Balance with Federal Reserve Bank
Cash in Vaults................................................
Net Demand Deposits....................................
Time Deposits.................................... ...........

423,486,000
127.754.000
32.970.000
14.684.000
322.294.000
112.421.000

$

428,556,000
127.257.000
38.618.000
15.864.000
324.181.000
111.763.000

March 5, 1920

$

489,248,000
89.858.000
37.142.000
17.900.000
362,462,000
98)755,000

During 1920 eighty-two banks sent us weekly condition reports, but two of them have been consolidated
with non-reporting banks. This year eighty-four banks are reporting regularly, but in order that the figures
may be comparable we have prepared the table given above from reports submitted by the same eighty members
in both 1921 and 1920. The figure given for “ Total Loans and Discounts7 as of March 5, 1920, is not com­
7
parable with the figures given for the two dates in 1921 because last year this item included investments in
miscellaneous stocks and bonds, other than Government securities, which investments are this year included
in the second item, “ Total Investments in Bonds and Securities.” The $89,858,000 listed under this second
heading in 1920 showed ownership of Government securities only. All other items are strictly comparable.
The figures presented show that total loans and discounts decreased between February 4, 1921 and,
March 4, 1921, to the amount of $5,070,000, or 1.2%, while total investments in bonds and securities increased
$479,000, or .38% during the same four weeks. Reserve balances carried with the Federal Reserve Bank
decreased $5,648,000, or 14.6%, and cash in vaults decreased $1,180,000, or 7.4%, between February 4 and
March 4, 1921. During the same period demand deposits decreased $1,887,000, or .58%, but time deposits
increased $658,000, or .59%.
Compared with figures as of March 5, 1920, the figures on March 4, 1921, show a decrease in combined
loans and investments of $27,866,000, or 4.8% ; a decrease in reserve balance of $4,172,000, or 12.6%; a decrease
in cash in vaults of $3,216,000, or 18.0%; and a decrease in demand deposits of $40,168,000, or 11.1%. The
only increase for the year is shown in time deposits, the increase amounting to $13,666,000, or 13.8%. The
efforts made by the banks of the Fifth District to take care of the demands made upon them by their customers
is clearly shown in the percentages given herewith, the decrease in loans and investments being the smallest
decrease noted.
DEBITS TO INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNT IN CLEARING HOUSE CENTERS
For the Weeks Ending
CITIES
March 2, 1921
*
Charleston, S. C ...................................... .......
Charlotte, N. C ...............................................
Columbia, S. C .................... ...........................
Greenville, S. C ................... ...........................
Huntington, W. Y a..........
............
Norfolk, V a........ . ............................. .
Raleigh, N. C ..................................................
Richmond, Va............................... .
......
Washington, D. C ......., , . .
..................
Wilmington, N. C .....
.......
Totals for seven cities.
Totals for eleven cities..
* Not included in totals for seven cities.

$

February 2, 1921

100,436,000
6.789.000
5.600.000
5.302.000
3,501,000*
5,655,000*
14.679.000
3.900.000
27.372.000
36,868,000*
4,961,000*

$

164,078,000
215,063,000

$

March 3, 1920

104,723,000
6.400.000
4.588.000
4.550.000
3,505,000*
5,957,000*
15.046.000
3.890.000
33.867.000
36,414,000*
7,443,000*

$

173,064,000
226,383,000

$

120,559,000
10.874.000
11.726.000
9.184.000
23.115.000
5.500.000
31.888.000

212,846,000

_

1

Weekly totals of debits to individual account at banks in seven leading clearing house cities for which
1920 figures are available for comparison show a decrease between the weeks ending March 3,1920, and March 2,
1921, amounting to $48,768,000, or 22.9%. The week ending March 2, 1921, shows a decrease of $11,320,000,
or 5.0% under the week ending February 2, 1921. The debits to individual account figures include all checks
for pay-rolls, checks cashed over the counter, checks deposited by customers in the same bank upon which
drawn— and in fact, all checks charged to individual accounts. Since many of these checks do not pass through
clearing houses, and many others are duplicated in those figures, it is evident that “ debits to individual account”
are more accurate indicators of business activity than “ clearing house” figures. In view of the lower prices
prevailing now in comparison with a year ago, and lessened pay-rolls due both to lower wages and restricted




operations, a decrease in debits to individual account for the week ending March 2, 1921, of 22.9% under
those for the week ending March 3, 1920, shows that the volume of business is not much less than it was a
year ago, though less in dollar value.
LABOR.— There is no scarcity of labor anywhere in the Fifth District, to judge from letters and reports
received from leaders in practically every industry represented in our territory. The only calls for labor that
cannot be immediately supplied come from housewives for cooks, where an actual shortage appears; but this
condition is relatively unimportant.
Manufacturers, builders, and other employers of labor are desirous of adjusting wages to lower levels in
order to reduce production costs. Both employers and employees have shown a reasonableness in adjusting
themselves to changing conditions, and there has been little friction between the two groups. In the Fifth
District reductions in wages have been made in the textile industry, in lumber operations, in farm work, and
for all classes of unskilled labor. Some reductions have also been made in the building trade and other indus­
tries, but these have been less general than in the industries previously mentioned.
Unemployment has not materially increased during the past month. Railroads have further reduced
their forces, but tobacco manufacturers employed additional workers during Feburary. Farmers are not
seeking wage-workers this season, but are looking for “ share croppers,” in which arrangement the worker
shares the responsibility with the landlord. The “ back to the farm movement” as a result of unemployment
in industries has not been very marked, although enough persons have returned to the rural sections to assure
the farmers an ample labor supply for 1921 operations.
FOODS.— February witnessed few changes in food prices, those noted being of a downward trend. In
the city of Richmond the distributing dairies reduced prices of milk and butter, and early in March announced
a further reduction in milk. Eggs sold at the end of February down to thirty cents, in comparison with eightyfive cents, the high mark reached last fall. White potatoes have declined sharply, the quotation of one large
store being sixty-five cents per bushel during the second week in March. Flour, meats, and other staples
remained stationary during February. Fruit packers report that- January and February sales compare favor­
ably with those for the same two months last year, and reports from wholesale grocers indicate that there
has been no slackening in orders received. It appears unlikely that there will be as many vegetables and earfy
spring fruits on the market this season as is usual, the dealers contending that existing freight rates make
customary shipments from the South unprofitable.
AGRICULTURE.— The agricultural situation in the Fifth District is very unsettled. Due to a multi­
plicity of conflicting counsels, the farmers are hesitating in making plans for the 1921 crops. They do not
know whether reduction in acreage will be profitable or not, and they are afraid that markets for miscellaneous
crops will not be available if they experiment with a diversity of products. The Southern farmer has been fo *
generations a one-crop farmer— either cotton or tobacco— and in many localities he has never learned to
raise or market many other things. It follows that prevailing prices for cotton and tobacco make his decision
a problem. In the space of one year the cotton planter has seen prices for his chief product decline from fortytwo to ten cents, a decrease of more than 75%, while fertilizer quotations are off only 25% to 30% from last
spring’s prices, with little reduction in cost of farm labor, though some of the employees thrown out of work
in industrial fields have returned to the farm.
From the best data available it appears that acreage in both cotton and tobacco will be materially reduced
this year, some authorities stating that the decrease will approximate 25%. It also seems that the use of
fertilizer will be restricted in 1921, which will further restrict the output, though aiding the farmers1 efforts
to reduce production costs. Less than 50% of the usual amount of fertilizer has been bought for this season
of the year, and farmers are showing little interest in making contracts. The prices are unsatisfactory and
they also encounter some difficulty in making usual financial arrangements for their purchases because of
unsettled bills for last year, which have grown out of the crop-holding movement and the low returns received
for 1920 crops.
The month of February witnessed further declines in cotton, and markets were inactive. There was
practically no market for the low grades. Tobacco prices improved somewhat, however, for the better grades,
but off-color and damaged goods have been sold for a few cents per pound. A few scattering reductions have
been made recently in manufactured tobacco, chiefly in cigar prices, but on the whole the consumer has not
begun to share in lower tobacco costs.
The prospect for the 1921 fruit crop is being endangered by the exceptionally early season throughout
the District and the consequent early blooming of many varieties. No damage has been done so far, and the
work of pruning and spraying orchards is practically completed.
Excessive moisture in many sections of the District has prevented the usual plowing in February, and
the preparations for the new crops are behind normal years.




Winter wheat is showing up well in Maryland and South Carolina, but only fair in Virginia and North
Carolina, with some reduction in acreage in the last-named State. Early Irish potatoes have been planted
in Eastern Virginia and North Carolina, and the sweet potato acreage in the two Carolinas is being materially
increased this year. Commercial producers of cabbage plants report the poorest sales in the history of the
business, some of them estimating their sales as low as 25% of normal.
COAL.— The coal situation as reported in January continued through February. The extremely
mild winter, together with the shut-downs or restrictions in running time in industry, has lessened the demand
for coal so materially that the West Virginia mines have not had sufficient orders to keep them running to
capacity. For the first time in many months there has been some unemployment in the coal fields. Reports
indicate that mine prices have steadily declined during the past two or three months, but retail prices show
only slight reductions during that period. Retailers attribute this situation to existing freight rates and to
the existence of contracts made at the prices obtaining at the mines last summer.
TEXTILES.— In our January report we said: “ The general feeling among textile manufacturers in the
Fifth District is decidedly optimistic.” It is doubtful if the opinion expressed at the close of February was
quite as hopeful as it had been thirty days previously, for while a considerable number of orders were received
in January and early February, the number since received has not borne out the promises indicated by January’s
activity. Our reports indicate that there is developing a tendency toward a second curtailment in running
time, but this movement may not become general. One of the largest mills in the District writes that in
spite of reductions of 40% in wages it can not sell its finished product except at figures below the cost of raw
material and manufacturing. This situation is reflected in the steady decline in Southern textile mill shares..
CLOTHING AND SHOES.— The prices quoted for spring clothing and shoes are much more reasonable
than prices named a year ago for the corresponding grades, but consumers are disappointed in the quotations.
The drastic cuts made by dealers immediately after Christmas, in an effort to clear out their winter stocks,
offered false hopes to the public, and it was generally thought that a first-class suit could probably be bought
in the spring for considerably less than now appears possible. The prices quoted for spring shoes are more
nearly in keeping with the reductions made in moving winter’s stocks and it is possible today to buy a good
pair of shoes for $10 for either men or women. The decline is more noticeable in mens’ wear than in goods
for women, the element of style entering so much less into the former business. Neither the clothing nor the
shoe trade is very active, except for new styles and novelties for the Easter trade, though the public generally
is buying for actual needs.
More attention is given to materials and prices before making purchases. It
appears from prices gathered that tailored suits have declined less than ready-made clothing, due perhaps to
the less general wage adjustments thus far made among tailors as compared with machine operators.
Clothing accessories have not declined materially during the past month, with the exception of hosiery,
but heavy declines in these had been previously registered during the winter months. Shirts, collars, ties,
underwear, hosiery, and practically all kinds of dress goods are lower than they were last year, and far below
the peak prices reached since the pre-war days.
BUILDING MATERIALS.— Without exception our correspondents handling lumber state that their
product is being sold below cost of production, and they claim that other building materials have not declined
in proportion, which is tending to hold up building. Several correspondents estimate that lumber has fallen
at least 50% below the peak prices of 1920. It is claimed that stocks on hand are not excessive, and some
dealers claim that stocks are even somewhat below normal. The past two months have seen some improvement
in demand for lumber, but only at bargain prices, and no rush of orders is expected by any of our correspondents.
On the whole, however, the dealers are hopeful, and the following quotation from a prominent manufacturer
closely reflects the majority opinion received by us this month.
We as manufacturers of lumber believe and think that lumber has been well liquidated and according to information
we have received from our salesmen on the road we have every reason to believe that as spring approaches the demand
for lumber will improve. We are not looking for any radical improvement but we are inclined to think we have turned the
corner and from now on conditions should gradually improve.

Business in builders’ hardware is reported as improving, and dealers are more hopeful than they have
previously been. Glass manufacturers, however, are not receiving enough orders to keep them running, and
with large stocks on hand most of the manufacturers have closed temporarily.
In the building materials field complaint against present freight rates is frequent and bitter. Lumber
manufacturers claim that the present scale is causing enormous waste in the forests, the freight charges making
the salvage of the cheaper grades of lumber unprofitable. Sand and gravel people contend that their produets
can not stand the present rates.




BUILDING OPERATIONS FOR THE MONTHS OF FEBRUARY, 1921 AND 1920.
Permil;s Issued
New Construction
CITIES
I
o

New
1921 1920

M aryland
1 Baltimore....................
2 Cumberland................
3 Frederick.....................
V irginia
4 Lynchburg...................
5 Norfolk.............
6 Richmond....................
7 Roanoke............... .
8 Staunton......................
W est V irginia
9 Charleston.......
10 Huntington....... .
11 Parkersburg................
N orth Carolina
12 Asheville......................
13 Charlotte...............
14 Durham....................
15 Greensboro.................
16 High Point...........
17 Wilmington....... . . . .
18 Winston-Salem..........
South Carolina
19 Charleston.........
20 Columbia.........
21 Greenville
22 Spartanburg...............
D istrict of Columbia
23 Washington.................
Totals.............

Alterations

Repairs

1921

1920

1921

1920

624 $ 2,762,620 $ 2,745,720 $
13
19,100
5,945
3
5,600
16,200

Increase or Per Cent,
of
Decrease,
Total
Increase
Valuation
or
o
Decrease

1921

1920

824,040 $
6,300
6,150

488,160 $
6,150
2,950

352,780
13,305
7,400-

265
13
2

409
5
2

883
10
3

7
16
55
*70
*1

10
45
41
*52
*4

3
46
75

7
28
59

14,375
394,679 ,
455,464
45,750*
1,500*

225,800
265,300
483,229
214,705*
9,800*

1,300
25,765
192,152

1,875
34,075
430,195

212,000121,069
265,SOS168,9558,300-

63
*97

37
*57

19

14

248,070
477,458
15,000

122,025
125,345*
30,500

8,837

3,650

10,000

10,000

131,232
352,113
15,500-

104.7 9
280.2 10
38.3- 11

152,865
64,150
35,000
33,475
46,600*
60,000
532,783

26,055
83,950
1,250
21,500

7,435
100,000
31,150
1,750

11,200
13,268

73,500
10,883

71,02014,600
54,10071,190
26,92598,200374,823-

44.38.9
81.8202.1
57.873.668.9-

12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22

10.9 1
110.0 2
38.6- 3
93.140.4
29.178.784.7-

4
5
6
7
8

24
16
4
19
14
12
31

26
22
5
10
*17
9
59

30
9
2
7

24
10
7
2

3
34

4
48

63,225
94,800
10,800
84,915
19,675
24,100
155,575

28
16
20
17

24
28
14
28

20
63
31
23

9
65
5
4

198,410
61,850
65,075
9,575

595,375
139,200
92,885
76,975

18,496
21,065
6,685
9,815

61,500
25,450
16,715
420

439,96981,73537,84058,005-

67.049.634.574.9-

104

150

336

235

373,540

1,297,151

252,486

239,961

911,086-

59.3- 23

894 1,054 1,597

* Includes both new and repairs.

1,161 $5,601,156 $ 7,371,028 $ 1,540,314 $ 1,545,819 $ 1,775,377-

-

19.9-

Denotes decrease.

The housing situation looks much better at the end of February than it did a month previously. Building
inspectors in twenty-three of the leading cities of the District issued 894 permits for new construction during
February, in comparison with January of this year when only 624 permits were issued in the same cities.
The February record then is 270 ahead of January. In permits issued for alterations and repairs, February,
1921, shows 1,597 in comparison with 1,348 during January, 1921. In total valuation the permits issued in
February of this year is 19.9% less than the corresponding month of last year, but January's decrease under
last year was 45.4%.
The table printed herewith shows that seven of the twenty-three cities issued permits of higher valuation
in February of this year than last year, and nine of the reporting cities show more permits for new construction
than during the same month last year. It is clear from the figures given that the building situation at the
end of February looks better than it did earlier in the season, and indications received early in March point
to continued improvements. A press report from Baltimore states that there is considerable activitiy in
residence construction, this report listing permits in February for ten two-story brick dwellings, seventeen
two-story frame dwellings, and one three-story brick apartment house, and in a new annex, eighty-three permits
for two-story brick dwellings, and twenty-two two-story frame dwellings— a total of 133 permits for residences,
many of which will provide for two or more families.
In spite of greater activity in building indicated above, there is still much hesitation in making plans for
other construction that is also needed. There is a general feeling that it is unwise to enter into contracts in
the face of falling markets for both building materials and labor, and people with funds for investment are
still skeptical as to the wisdom of investing in rental property.
In commenting on the causes of reluctance in undertaking construction work, a big wholesale lumber
dealer writes:
In our opinion, this condition will continue until the financial situation is adjusted to a more favorable basis for invest­
ors and home builders and until the wages of the class of labor that enter into building construction is adjusted on a more
equitable basis than prevails at the present time.




FIGURES ON RETAIL TRADE
As Indicated by Reports from Twenty=five Representative Department Stores
for the Month of February, 1921
Baltimore
Percentage increase (or decrease) in net sales
during February over or under sales in
February, 1920..... ...........................................
Percentage increase (or decrease) in net sales
from January 1st through February 28,
1921, in comparison with sales during the
same two months of 1920...............................
Percentage of decrease in stocks on hand at
the end of February, 1921, in comparison
with stocks on hand on the same date in
1920...................................................................
Percentage of increase in stocks on hand on
February 28, 1921, compared to stocks on
hand January 31, 1921....................................
Percentage of average stocks on hand at the
end of each month since January 1, 1921,
to average monthly net sales during the
same two months............................................
Percentage of outstanding orders for mer­
chandise on February 28, 1921, to total
purchases of merchandise during the cal­
endar year 1920...............................................
-

Richmond

Washington

Other Cities

District

5.3

14.2*

8.4

15.9

8.6

4.6

4.2

8.8

9.4

6.4

24.0-

13.1-

29.9-

21.4-

24.8-

6.9

7.7

9.8

13.9

8.9

341.6

403.1

370.9

434.3

368.7

7.9

6.1

4.8

6.9

6.6

Denotes decrease.

The figures on retail trade for February, 1921, in comparison with February, 1920, are gratifying and
prove conclusively that the public has means to make all necessary purchases. Last year at this time the
wave of careless spending was in progress and prices were probably from 15% to 25% higher than they are
this year; but in spite of expectations to the contrary, our inquiries show positively that a greater volume of
trade is being done than was done during the corresponding period of 1920. The actual dollar increase in
sales during February over February 1920 amounts to 8.6%, and the increase from January 1, 1921, through
February is 6.4% over sales during the first two months of last year. Stocks on hand at the end of February
have been reduced in selling value 24.8% under values at the close of February, 1920, but receipts of spring
merchandise have increased stocks on hand on February 28, 1921, over stocks on hand at the close of January,
1921, to the amount of 8.9%.
Outstanding orders at the end of February this year were 6.6% of total purchases of merchandise, at cost
prices, during the calendar year 1920. The rate of turn-over is satisfactory, the percentage of average stocks
on hand at the end of the first two months of 1921 to net sales during the same two months being 368.7%,
the lowest figure yet reported to us, with the exception of January, which was 343.9%. The January figure
was extraordinarily low, however, due to special efforts during January to move winter stocks before the
arrival of spring goods. Last August this item reached the figure of 560.7%, compiled from reports received
from twenty-two of the same stores included in the twenty-five used this month.
During February only four reporting stores out of twenty-five sold less goods in dollars than in February,
1920, and only eight of the twenty-five sold less goods during January and February combined than during
the same two months last year. The greatest increase in net sales reported by an individual store during
February in comparison with February, 1920, was 44.9%, and the greatest decrease was 13.0%.
It is pleasing to report that the net increase in sales made by retail stores in the Fifth District during
January, 1921, in comparison with sales in the same stores in January, 1920, was the largest percentage increase
in the twelve Federal Reserve Districts, according to figures released by the Division of Analysis and Research
of the Federal Reserve Board. The increase in the Fifth District amounted to 5.4%.




FIGURES ON WHOLESALE TRADE
Net Sales in February, 1921, Compared with
LINES SOLD
Sales in January, 1921
Groceries............................................................... ............
Dry Goods................ s. . ..........
. .............
Boots and Shoes............. .
Hardware........ .......................................... .
Furniture........
........... .............................. , ----

Sales in February, 1920

2.214.4
77.0
6.9246.4

14.550.442.637.452.3-

Denotes Decrease.

The figures presented in the preceding table were compiled from thirty-six reports sent us by leading
wholesale firms or manufacturers, in which sales were given in actual figures. We received eight reports each
from dealers in groceries, dry goods, boots and shoes, and hardware, and four from furniture manufacturers.
The dry goods, boots-and-shoes, and furniture reports show increases over January, 1921, and the decrease
shown by grocery and hardware dealers is less than the decrease in number of business days during February
in comparison with January. In comparison with February, 1920, the past month still shows decreases in
all lines from which reports were received, but the percentages of decrease are less in every case than they
were in January.
An examination of the figures shows that wholesale business is improving in all lines, but especially in
dry goods, boots and shoes and furniture. In dry goods, January sales were 40.3% greater than December,
1920, sales, but 65.2% under sales in January, 1920, while February sales show an increase over January of
14.4% and a decrease under February, 1920, of 50.4%. Boot and shoe dealers sold 77.6% less goods in January,
1921, than in January, 1920, and 7.1% less than in December, 1920, but in February the same firms sold only
42.6% less than in February, 1920, and reported 77.0% more than in January, 1921. Furniture shows the
largest increase of the several lines, the increase in sales in February over January being 246.4%, with a decrease
in comparison with February, 1920, of 52.3%, compared to a decrease in January under December, 1920,
sales of 2.4%, and a decrease under January, 1920, sales of 74.1%.
In collections the several firms report conditions practically unchanged from January, twenty-five of
the thirty-six firms stating that collections are either good or fair, while eleven write that they are slow or poor.
The answers on outstanding orders are incomplete, but indications are that the amounts were greater at the
end of February than they were at the end of January or December.
MISCELLANEOUS.— As a result of the uncertain situation in agriculture in the Fifth District, the
dealers in burlap for fertilizer bags, in agricultural implements, in buggies and wagons are finding business
exceedingly dull. The paper mills have insufficient orders to keep them running to capacity, and prices of
paper products have declined steadily during the past three months. Trunk and bag manufacturers report
business at less than 50% of normal, stating that sales are very hard to make, except under guaranteed prices,
which no concern can afford to make.
Musical instrument dealers say that their business is fair, except in the strictly agricultural sections.
Cotton seed oil mills write us that oil is now selling for less than 25% of its value a year ago, and even at the
new low level the demand is poor. The demand is also poor for cotton seed meal and hulls. Tanners report
that business is quiet, but it is believed that the outlook is somewhat more favorable than it was a month
or so ago. Buyers are conservative in their purchases and have been reducing their stocks to a minimum.





Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102