Business Monday: Aspen retailers rock in October

Report: Taxable sales topped same months in 2020 by 41.8% and 2019 by 74.8%

Sharp increases in both taxable retail and lodging sales highlighted an October in Aspen that behaved less like an offseason month and more like an active one.

In its monthly consumption report issued last week, the city of Aspen’s finance department reported taxable sales in October topped the same months in 2020 by 41.8% and 2019 by 74.8%.

“October, while typically a shoulder season period for businesses to dial back and prepare for the pending ski season, saw high consumer spending despite inflationary price pressures and appears to still be fueled by pent-up COVID driven demand,” said Anthony Lewin, the city’s senior tax auditor, in comments accompanying the report released Wednesday.

Retailers in October alone combined to generate $67.3 million in taxable sales, with the industry performances broken down as follows:

Accommodations, $15.6 million in October sales, up 155.3% over October 2020 and 109.9% over October 2019

Restaurants/bars, $9.4 million, up 4% over 2020 and 55.2% over 2019

Sports equipment/clothing, $2.7 million, up 11.5% over 2020 and 87.4% over 2019

Fashion/clothing, $7.1 million, up 22% over 2020 and 201.2% over 2019

Construction, $7.6 million, 10.9% over 2020 and 29% ahead of 2019

Food and drug, $4.8 million, 92.8% ahead of 2020 and 34.2% better than 2019

Liquor, $777,636, 5% behind 2020 and 30.2% ahead of 2019

Miscellaneous, $9.6 million, 98.6% over 2020 and 108.3% over 2019

Jewelry/gallery, $3.7 million, 83.9% over 2020 and 227.4% ahead of 2019

Utilities, $3.1 million, 7.2% over 2020 and 5.6 over 2019

Automobile, $1.6 million, 41.3% behind 2020 and 15% behind 2019

Marijuana, $839,798, 6.6% below 2020 and 34.8% ahead of 2019

Bank/finance, $247,843, 11.6% behind 2020; 2019 n/a

Health/beauty, $271,179, no comparisons available

Year-to-date sales through October totaled $824.1 million, outpacing the first 10 months of 2020 by 30.4% and the same period in 2019 by 23.2%, according to the report.

Year-to-date taxable sales of nearly $825 million through October have Aspen retailers outperforming 2020 by 30.4% and 2019 by 23.2%, according to a consumption tax report the city issued last week. (Graphic courtesy city of Aspen)

Heads filling beds, RETT faring well

Lodging tax collections of $166,860 in October also were up 133% over October 2020 and 90% ahead of October 2019, the report said. While not on par with the summer months — $231,840 in June, $429,454 in July, $328,132 in August and $324,107 in September — collections in October continued to reflect a strong market.

“Robust lodging activity is largely being driven by growth in both summer and off-season months, and is highlighting that Aspen’s tourism economy extends beyond the winter ski season as perhaps is most commonly assumed,” remarked Lewin.

Through October of this year, the city had collected nearly $3.2 million through its 2% lodging tax, according to the report. Three-fourths of those tax collections, which amounted to $2.4 million through November, go to tourist marketing and the remainder goes to housing.

Also through November, the city’s real estate transfer tax resulted in $17.7 million in collections for its housing program, compared to $15.3 million through the same time in 2020. The RETT also brought in $9.1 million through November for the Wheeler Opera House funds, besting the $8.3 million collected through November 2020, according to the report.