July sales up 4.2 percent | AspenTimes.com

July sales up 4.2 percent

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Retail sales in Aspen were up 4.2 percent in July, bringing total sales for the first seven months of the year to within 1 percent of matching last year’s pace.

Last year, however, was nothing to brag about. Retail sales for 2002 were down 1.8 percent from 2001, and 2001’s end-of-year numbers were down 6.2 percent, compared to 2000.

Taxable sales through July totaled $225.3 million, according to figures released Tuesday by the city finance office. The sum is down 0.6 percent, compared to $226.5 million in sales through the first seven months of 2002. The city had recorded $238.6 million in total taxable sales through July 2001 and $246.8 million through July 2000.

“Retail sales for the year continue to decline in comparison to prior years,” notes the city’s July sales report.

So far this year, sales in tourist accommodations, sports equipment/clothing, clothing store sales and general retail sales all continue to lag behind 2002, though most of the largest sectors of the local retail economy saw gains for a second straight month in July. June sales jumped 7.4 percent compared to the same month a year ago.

Restaurant/bar business was up nearly 6 percent in July, while tourist accommodations were up a slight 0.3 percent, compared to July 2002. Together, the two categories make up nearly half of overall sales.

Sports equipment/clothing sales were up 12.2 percent for the month; clothing sales were up 12.5 percent and liquor sales jumped almost 26 percent.

Utilities were down 8.7 percent for the month, compared to July 2002; food and drug sales were up 3.2 percent.

General retail sales, including such items as hardware, paint and appliances, were up about 2 percent in July while specialty retail – gifts, books, antiques, luggage and the like – were down nearly 2 percent.

For the year, restaurant/bar business is up almost 3 percent compared to 2002, but tourist accommodations are down 2.4 percent. Sports equipment/clothing sales and clothing store business is also down slightly for the year so far, while general retail sales are 13 percent off last year’s pace. Food and drug sales are up 6 percent for the year so far.

The city’s sales-tax collections are .02 percent ahead of collections through July 2002, but are 5 percent ahead of what the city had budgeted for this year. Lodging tax collections are lagging behind 2002 levels by 1.5 percent, but are 3.4 percent ahead of budget projections.

Real estate transfer tax collections through July are lagging about 25 percent behind last year. The transfer tax that funds the Wheeler Opera House is about 5 percent ahead of what was budgeted this year, however, while the RETT dedicated to affordable housing is about 8 percent below its budget target.

The increase in city sales tax collections in both June and July is an encouraging sign, but “guarded optimism” is in order, according to Paul Menter, city finance director. “Several important retail categories continue to lag behind 2002 collections by substantial margins,” he noted.

They include general retail (down 13.3 percent), tourist accommodations (down 2.4 percent), sports equipment stores (down 2.4 percent) and clothing stores (down 2.1 percent).

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