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August proves lucrative for Aspen retail economy

August’s Consumption Tax Report shows sales increased 37% over same month in 2019 and 33% over 2020

Ethan Mayer, 19, plays his violin during the Aspen August Gallery Night as part of the Intersect Aspen events downtown on Thursday, August 5, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The eighth month of 2021 was so busy in Aspen that retail sales shattered figures from both August of 2019 and 2020.

The city of Aspen Finance Department on Friday released its Consumption Tax Report for August, which showed sales increased 37% over the same month in 2019 and 33% over 2020.

“These double-digit growth percentages, regardless of comparison to 2020 or 2019, reflect that economic activity has been robust, especially given the slower start to the year when under red-level restrictions,” noted Finance Director Pete Strecker in an introduction to the report.



Aspen limped into 2021 under health restrictions limiting operations of restaurants and retail, but as those mandates have eased in the ensuing months, overall all business has been on the upswing.

August sales figures among Aspen’s retail sectors shaped up like this:




• Accommodations — $28.6 million, up 40% over August 2019 and 57.5% over 2020

• Restaurants/bars — $18.9 million, up 17.7% over 2019 and 22.7% over 2020

• Sports equipment/clothing — $3.8 million, up 8.7% over 2019 and down 15.4% from 2020

• Construction — $7.7 million, up 53.4% over 2019 and 61.4% over 2020

• Food & drug — $7.8 million, up 25.9% over 2019 and 18.5% over 2020

• Liquor — $1.4 million, up 21.1% over 2019, down 8.7% from 2020

• Misc. — $8.1 million, up 33.1% over 2019, up 17.4% over 2020

• Jewelry/gallery — $4.4 million, up 39.1% over 2019, down 6.8% from 2020

• Utilities — $3.4 million, up 16.4% from 2019; up 5.4% from 2020

• Automobile — $3.3 million, up 83.7% from 2019; up 22.1% from 2020

• Marijuana — $1.1 million, down 15.3% from 2019; down 19.7% from 2020

• Bank/finance — $280,010, n/a

• Health/beauty — $456,788, n/a

Overall sales in August were $102.6 million, pushing year-to-date figures through the first eight months to $650.4 million, which paced 14.7% ahead of the same time frame in 2019, and 31.5% better than 2020, the report said.

Visitors, masked and unmasked, meander through the walking mall in downtown Aspen on Friday, August 6, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Through August, just two sectors have seen sales down in contrast to the first eight months of the year in 2019 — accommodations, which lag by 9.6%, and marijuana shops, which are down 8.3%. Marijuana sales this year through August are above 2020 levels by 6%.

Strecker noted accommodations have bounced back nicely since January and February, and he added that global travel restrictions might have hampered cannabis sales.

“While there has not been a detailed assessment of this industry to date, some theoretical reasoning for this includes that the lack of international tourism has contributed to this delta; this plus the general reduction in tourism during the heavy winter months at the early part of the year,” Strecker reported.


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