It likely was the biggest December in Aspen’s retail-sales history: $83.9 million in the last month of 2013, a 9.5 percent increase compared with the $76.6 million that the city’s businesses earned during the same month in 2012.
And it capped off another great year, at least collectively, for local retailers. In 2013, businesses reported sales of $566.9 million, a 6.6 percent increase when stacked up against 2012’s $531.6 million, according to the city’s consumption tax report released Thursday.
The figures show that Aspen has returned to — and is even exceeding — its pre-recession form. However, the figures reported by the city have not been adjusted for inflation.
December generally is Aspen’s greatest retail-sales month of the year, accounting for 15 percent of annual sales, according to city accounting supervisor Chris Lundgren. The next-closest months are January and March, which usually account for 12 percent, he added.
As usual, the accommodations industry led the way in December, garnering 29 percent of the total monthly take. Hotels and lodges pulled in $24.5 million, an 11 percent increase over December 2012’s $22.1 million.
Restaurants and bars were a distant second, collecting $11.5 million, a 12 percent increase over the $10.2 million of 12 months earlier. The restaurants-and-bars category accounted for 13.7 percent of Aspen’s retail pie.
Gains also were realized in eight other categories: sports equipment-clothing, clothing, construction, food-drug, liquor, utilities, automobile sales and miscellaneous. Decreases occurred in general retail, specialty retail and jewelry-gallery-fur.
The city’s 2.1 percent sales tax generated about $1.8 million, up 9 percent from December 2012’s $1.6 million. The city collected $11.8 million through the sales tax for the entire 12 months, a 6 percent increase compared with $11.1 million the previous year.
The retail-sales figures closely mirror other measures of the health of the local economy.
At the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, commercial-airline traffic was 8 percent higher in December compared with the same month in 2012. Bill Tomcich, president of reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass, said the airport saw 40,052 passengers in December 2012 and 43,259 in the same month last year. The figures reflect the number of people flying into the Aspen airport and also leaving it.
And DestiMetrics, a Denver firm that measures lodging inventories in resort communities, recorded Aspen’s December hotel occupancy as 52 percent, a 9 percent increase compared with the same month in 2012.