Are we finished hoarding? Basalt sales tax report says yes |

Are we finished hoarding? Basalt sales tax report says yes

Grocery stores sales dropped in March compared to last year

Parking spots were at a premium in downtown Basalt on Wednesday, May 26. The town is busy at the start of its traditionally strong summer season.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

Basalt’s latest sales tax report shows that hoarding has come to an end in the grocery stores and midvalley residents drank about as much as they could when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

The April sales tax report reflects actual sales in March. The report shows that retail food sales in Basalt fell 13.6 percent for March this year compared to 2020.

The grocery stores shattered sales records in March 2020 when people hoarded toilet paper, hand sanitizer and nearly every type of food imaginable. Sales also climbed because restaurants abruptly closed to in-person dining due to state and country public health orders in mid-month at the start of the pandemic.

Basalt collected $192,769 in sales tax from retail food sales in March 2021 compared to $223,213 in March 2020, the sales tax report showed.

Town manager Ryan Mahoney said the decrease is due to off-the-charts sales last year rather than a poor month this year or increasing competition in the valley.

“That’s what we attributed it to — not competition with Carbondale,” he said.

A new City Market opened in August in Carbondale, but there’s been little sign that the new store is syphoning off sales from the El Jebel City Market or Whole Foods in Willits, Mahoney said.

To Mahoney’s point, Basalt’s grocery stores enjoyed the second best March in 2021 since 2012, the earliest statistics available.

“Retail Food has increased over pre-COVID numbers, showing strong growth in that sector since 2019,” the report said.

The report also showed that growth in retail liquor sales during the pandemic has finally flattened out. Basalt’s liquor stores managed a 1.8 percent increase in March 2021 over the same month the year before. Liquor sales were high throughout the pandemic.

The sales tax report showed that the lodging and restaurant industries bounced back this spring compared to last year.

Basalt’s lodges and hotels experienced a 140 percent increase in sales in March compared to the same month in 2020. Their performance was the best on the books for the month over the past decade.

Restaurants with bars saw their sales surge 113 percent in March while restaurants without bars were up 139 percent compared to 2020. Both sectors had their best March in the last decade.

The report also reflected how the building industry is booming. Sales of building materials were up nearly 68 percent compared to April 2020.

General retail and sporting goods retail also showed strong growth. Sales of sporting goods were double in March 2021 what they were for the month the year before. General retail was up 15 percent. Both categories now include taxes on online sales.

Overall, sales were up 17 percent in March year over year. Basalt collected $693,259 in sales taxes in March 2021 compared to $592,740 for the month the year before.

For the year-to-date, the April sales tax report shows Basalt sales tax collections are up 14.2 percent over last year. The town has collected $2.63 million this year compared to $2.3 million last year.

“Given the increases in sales tax seen over the last seven months, we can expect the Town’s sales tax budget to come in ahead of budget,” the report said.

Basalt topped $7 million in sales tax collections last year. About $2.54 million came from retail food sales.