Aspen retail sales lose ground in April
June 4, 2011
ASPEN – Retail sales declined slightly in April compared with the same month last year, according to the monthly consumption tax report released by the city of Aspen on Friday afternoon.
Sales totaled $19.92 million compared with $20.11 million in April 2010, a $190,812 decline, the city’s figures from this month and 12 months ago indicate. Accommodations, one of the big drivers of the local economy, took an 18 percent hit in April, as did clothing sales, which experienced a 17 percent drop, the city reported.
Aspen Finance Director Don Taylor said the decline does not suggest any sort of local economic slowdown, given that April is considered one of the city’s off-season months within the framework of the local tourism economy.
Buttermilk closed April 3, while Snowmass and Aspen Mountain closed April 10. Aspen Highlands enjoyed an extended season, closing April 24.
“The ski areas closed at about the same time as last year,” Taylor said. “It’s a small month, so it doesn’t take a lot to change [retail sales percentages] by a few percent. April and May, October and November are the shoulder seasons; they are really a fraction of what the winter and summer months are.”
He said though overall retail sales declined, sales-tax collections were 4 percent higher this April because the city collected on some delinquent accounts. “The difference is due to some vendors filing late this time of year plus collections due to sales-tax audits,” Taylor wrote in a memorandum to the monthly report.
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On Tuesday, Taylor and assistant finance director Ashley Ernemann provided a budget update to the City Council that included a briefing on the busy winter months.
The report shows that the January-to-March period was strong for retail sales in Aspen, totaling $166.45 million, a 4.8 percent increase compared with the same three months last year.
Of the 12 categories measured by the city, there were only two declines: utilities and food and drug. The 4.6 percent decrease in the food and drug category can be explained by shorter operating hours and lower sales for City Market grocery store, which for the last year has been undergoing an extensive renovation. That project is expected to be finished by June 15.
Winter retail sales in Aspen declined drastically in 2009, by some 18 percent, after peaking at $191.86 million in 2008. The economic slowdown began later that year. Sales picked up steadily, by 3 percent each year, during the January-March periods of 2010 and 2011.
The city is projecting a strong summer season, the four-month period of June to September, with an estimated $166.38 million in sales. Should that occur, it would be the best summer for retail of the last three summers. The city’s summer season peaked in 2007 when sales of $170.58 million were realized.