Aspen posts record year in retail sales |

Aspen posts record year in retail sales

ASPEN ” Aspen retailers posted record sales in 2006, logging $447.3 million in receipts ” a 6.4 percent gain over 2005, according to figures released Tuesday by the city finance office.

The year-end report shows gains in most sectors of the resort’s retail economy, including a 9 percent jump in tourist accommodations and a 7.2 percent hike in restaurant/bar business. The two categories are something of a critical indicator of retail activity, as they made up 45 percent of overall sales in 2006.

City tax collections were up 6.5 percent last year, compared to 2005, while Aspen’s lodging tax revenues jumped nearly 11 percent in 2006.

In the month of December alone, retailers posted $72.1 million in sales ” a 6.2 percent jump over the same month in 2005. December is traditionally the second busiest month of the year from a sales standpoint; March is first.

December was a strong month for most sectors. Tourist accommodations were up 14.2 percent, compared to the same month in 2005. Restaurant/bar sales rose 4.3 percent, clothing sales were up 1.8 percent and sports equipment/clothing sales jumped 12.7 percent. Those four categories made up about 63 percent of overall sales in December.

For the year, sports/equipment clothing sales were up 13.4 percent and made up almost 7 percent of overall sales. Clothing sales were up 8.4 percent and made up 10 percent of the year’s sales total. Food and drug sales, up 6.2 percent in 2006, also accounted for 10 percent of overall sales.

Utility sales were up 10.4 percent last year and made up 7.8 percent of overall sales, but the increase is partially due to increased gas and electricity rates, noted city Finance Director Paul Menter in his report.

Without the utility sector ” one that doesn’t reflect core retail activity in Aspen ” retail sales growth would be up about 5.3 percent instead of 6.4 percent for 2006, he noted.

Despite strong growth in retail sales for the past three years, Menter added, adjusted for inflation using the Denver/Boulder Consumer Price Index, the purchasing power of Aspen’s sales tax collections in 2006 for the first time exceeded the purchasing power of 1995 tax revenues.

“That means that the real growth of the past three years has, until 2006, been more than offset by contractions in retail activity ” mostly through the recession and post-9/11 period of 2000-2002,” he wrote.

Though they are unrelated to retail sales, collections from Aspen’s real estate transfer taxes, or RETTs, continue to climb ” the result of a record-breaking real estate market.

Real estate sales in Pitkin County topped 2.6 billion in 2006; the city collects a tax on the transactions that occur in Aspen. Revenues from the 1 percent RETT dedicated to the worker housing program finished the year up 17 percent, while the half-percent RETT dedicated to the Wheeler Opera House was up 19 percent.

(and percentage of total sales)

Tourist accommodations ” up 9 percent (27.8%)

Restaurants/bars ” up 7.2 percent (17.7%)

Sports equipment/clothing ” up 13.4 percent (6.9%)

Clothing stores ” up 8.4 percent (10%)

T-shirt stores ” down 3.2 percent (.5%)

Fur stores ” up 17.5 percent (.2%)

Liquor stores ” up 9.7 percent (1.6%)

Utilities ” up 10.4 percent (7.8%)

General retail ” up 1.9 percent (7.4%)

Specialty retail ” down 1.6 percent (6.9%)

Jewelry ” up 1.7 percent (1.6%)

Galleries ” down 17.8 percent (.9%)

Food and drug stores ” up 6.2 percent (10%)

Miscellaneous ” down 34 percent (.7%)

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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