Aspen’s March sales increase lower than preceding months |

Aspen’s March sales increase lower than preceding months

Aspen retailers posted $61.2 million in sales during March, a meager 1 percent increase over the $60.3 million the city recorded in the same month last year.

Percentagewise, the increase was smaller than it had been for several months. For instance, city retailers netted a 7 percent increase on the whole in November 2011 compared with November 2010, just before the full start of the winter ski season, according to the city’s Finance Department.

The significantly higher sales continued through the winter. December saw a 13 percent increase, January saw a 12 percent increase, and February saw a 10 percent increase.

Aspen Finance Director Don Taylor did not list a reason for March’s smaller increase in retail sales in his monthly Consumption Tax Report released Wednesday. However, local and regional media have reported that below-average Colorado snowfall totals during March were believed to have had a significant effect on skier visits and tourism.

Based on local retail sales and city sales tax collections, the economic trends since mid-2010 have been mostly positive – the year 2009, amid the Great Recession, represented a huge slide compared with the previous four or five years, when Aspen’s economy boomed.

For the 12 months of 2011, sales were 7 percent higher than the year before. For 2010, sales rose 4 percent, compared with 2009’s figure.

Though March’s numbers were not particularly impressive in terms of snowfall or retail sales, the city’s report shows that sales ran 8 percent higher for the first three months this year compared with the January-to-March period of 2011.

As for March 2012, significant gains came in the areas of construction (32 percent), sports equipment-clothing (9 percent), general retail (11 percent) and utilities (15 percent). Accommodations, representing the lodging industry, were up 2 percent, and the food-and-drug category was 5 percent higher.

Losses were recorded in the sectors of specialty retail (33 percent), jewelry-gallery-fur (42 percent) and restaurants-bars (3 percent).

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