NORCROSS -- While retail sales figures dipped nationally in May, one local small business expert is optimistic about the economy close to home.
The Commerce Department reported this week a 0.2 percent drop nationally in retail sales in May, and Norcross small business expert Bill McDermott said it's cause for concern because two-thirds of the economy is driven by consumer spending.
"Because consumer confidence is down, people are spending less," said McDermott, CEO of McDermott Financial Solutions, an independent business banking consulting firm.
If sales continue to remain stagnant, McDermott said more retail layoffs could be expected.
"When we consider how the purchasing power of the dollar has fallen through the years, this new number shows what we knew already: The U.S. economy is fighting to get back to consumer spending levels we saw in the late '90s," McDermott said. "If retail sales continue to struggle, small businesses, so many of which are retail-based, will face big challenges."
Because the metro Atlanta economy is real estate driven, McDermott said he's optimistic for local businesses in the aftermath of the housing crisis.
To reverse the negative figures, McDermott pointed to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce's work to help businesses grow.
"What we can do to help small businesses, and we're already doing it, is make our county as attractive as we can for companies coming in," he said.
A client of McDermott's in the IT staffing industry has seen 25-30 percent sales growth, and McDermott said temporary staffing companies are doing extremely well.
"While the staff may be cut, the work still has to get done," he said.