June sales dip slightly | AspenTimes.com

June sales dip slightly

Janet UrquhartAspen Times writer

A downturn in the lodging sector, due in large part to redevelopment at the St. Regis Aspen, helped drive down Aspens June retail sales by 1.2 percent, compared to the same month a year ago.Tourist accommodations were off last years pace by 17.3 percent for the month, based on sales tax receipts. Lodging business was also down 16 percent in May, compared to 2003. The June sales figures were released Monday by the citys Finance Department. A wing of the St. Regis, Aspens largest hotel, is being remodeled into 25 fractional-ownership suites. The reduction in luxury hotel rooms available for short-term rental in June was a key reason for the drop in lodging sales, according to Paul Menter, city finance director.If theyd had the same June this year that they had last year, sales tax revenues would be up 6 percent, he said.The city requires a mitigation fee from lodging properties, including the St. Regis, that convert standard hotel rooms to timeshare or fractional units to offset the loss in sales tax revenues.Despite the dip in June, overall sales for the first half of 2004 are up nearly 9 percent, compared to the first six months of 2003.June has historically been the most erratic month for sales-tax collections in Aspen, Menter reported. Revenues for the month of June were up, compared to the same month in 2002 and 1999, but down compared to 2003, 2001 and 2000, he noted. Tourist accommodations account for about 30 percent of Aspens annual sales tax revenues.Last year, June sales jumped 7.4 percent over 2002, spurred in part by the return of Jazz Aspen Snowmass to Aspen, along with the traditional starts to the summer season, including the kickoff of the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Aspen Food & Wine Magazine Classic.This year, the downturn in tourist accommodations was somewhat offset by a 10.3 percent boost in restaurant/bar sales for the month.Taxable sales in June totaled $28.8 million, while taxable sales for the first half of the year hit the $201.69 million mark.Most large segments of the retail sector showed gains in June, with the exception of specialty retail, which was down 4 percent compared to June 2003, and food and drug sales, down 1.1 percent. The specialty retail category includes gifts, books, antiques, luggage and the like.Sports equipment/clothing sales were up 4.6 percent; clothing sales showed a 1.7 percent gain; liquor store sales were up 6.4 percent; utilities were up 8.4 percent; and general retail, including such items as hardware and appliances, was up 7.6 percent.Every retail category tracked by the city is outpacing last years sales for the first six months except liquor store sales, which are down 2 percent. Among the larger producers of sales tax revenues, big gainers for the first half of the year include tourist accommodations, up 8.9 percent; restaurant/bar business, up 8.2 percent; sports equipment/clothing, up 12 percent; and general retail, up 23.2 percent.Janet Urquharts e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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