Business Monday: Basalt sales surge continues; mayors suspects ‘sugar rush’ |

Business Monday: Basalt sales surge continues; mayors suspects ‘sugar rush’

Retail grocery sales in Basalt are down nearly 5% this year compared to last year through September. More people were eating at home last year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the drop in grocery sales this year, the category is pacing ahead of pre-COVID numbers.
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Another month, another record for sales activity in Basalt.

The town of Basalt’s September sales tax collections were nearly 20% higher than the same month in 2020, which was also strong because of the COVID-19 rebound. The September sales tax report reflects actual sales in August, which is historically one of Basalt’s strongest months.

Last year established a record for sales and sales tax collections in Basalt. This year is blowing by that record year and far outpacing pre-COVID numbers.

Some of the big winners for the month of August were lodges, restaurants, general retail and building materials, according to the report by Basalt finance director Christy Chicoine.

“Lodging is posting an 18.6% increase between years due to their recovery and growth above pre-COVID sales,” her report said. “Restaurants without bars are posting a gain of 53.3% between years, due to growth above pre-COVID sales. Restaurants with bars show a 13% increase compared to 2020. Retail sales are showing an increase of 31.6% between years. The building sector increased 18.3% compared to 2020.”

The only blip in the performance was the retail food category. Grocery sales were down about 5% from last August “mostly due to the large sales volume in 2020 due to COVID concerns,” Chicoine wrote in her report. “However, retail food has increased over pre-COVID numbers, showing stability in that sector since 2019.”

In the year-to-date through the September report, sales are up 18.8% from the same period in 2020. Sales are up across the board, except for the grocery stores, Chicoine reported.

“Due to strong sales in the lodging and restaurant industries, those sectors are now showing gains from the prior year and are tracking above pre-COVID sales,” her report noted.

Restaurants with bars are up 39% from the same point last year. Lodging is up nearly 34%. Both sectors were hit hard early in the pandemic but bounced back strong starting last summer.

Basalt Mayor Bill Kane is wary that the trend of strong sales will continue. At the Oct. 26 council meeting, Kane said he wonders if Basalt and other towns in the valley are experiencing a “sugar high” after the lockdown during the pandemic. People are eager to spend now, but he wonders if it is “sustainable retail.”

Kane said he wants the town to court development that can help provide a sustainable future.