December sales rise |

December sales rise

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Cash registers in Aspen were ringing for the holidays, as retailers posted a 3.5 percent increase in December sales compared to the same month in 2002.

Retailers closed a year that saw overall sales climb 0.6 percent from 2002 ” the first time Aspen has posted a year-end tally that went up instead of down since 2000.

Despite the modest gains in 2003, hotels and lodges struggled, ending the year down 2.2 percent compared to 2002. Tourist accommodations make up the single-largest sector of the retail economy, accounting for about 26 percent of overall sales last year.

Still, many condos and hotels were full for the holidays, and sales for the month of December alone reflected that big end-of-year boost, according to figures released Monday by the city Finance Department.

Tourist accommodations were up 6 percent in December, while the restaurant/bar business posted a 2 percent gain for the month. Together, the two categories accounted for about 45 percent of overall sales for the year, based on sales tax collections.

The strong December compared to the same month in 2002 is especially noteworthy because December 2002 was cause for celebration. Receipts in the final month of 2002 were up a whopping 10.4 percent, compared to December 2001. Sales plummeted during the final months of 2001 in the wake of Sept. 11.

Virtually every significant sector of the retail economy posted gains last month, compared to December 2002, except clothing stores, which were down 6.4 percent for the month, and the speciality retail category, which was down 5 percent.

Sports equipment/clothing sales were up nearly 7 percent in December; liquor store sales shot up almost 29 percent for the month, food and drug sales were up about 9 percent, and general retail ” paint, hardware, appliances and such ” was up 4.2 percent. Utilities were up about 11 percent.

Sales in December alone totaled $51.8 million, compared to $50 million in December 2002.

For the year as a whole, most categories tracked by the city showed gains over 2002, with the notable exception of tourist accommodations and a few others. General and speciality retail were down 4.7 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. Gallery sales were down almost 15 percent, but those sales made up just 0.5 percent of overall sales.

Retail sales in 2003 totaled $371.5 million, compared to $369.2 million in 2002. Overall taxable sales in 2001 totaled $376.1 million, which was down from a record $400.9 million in 2000.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]


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