Report: Aspen retailers show sharp sales increases in first half of 2021 |

Report: Aspen retailers show sharp sales increases in first half of 2021

Aspen retailers in the first half of 2021 recorded $422.8 million in taxable sales, marking a 26.5% improvement over the six months of last year and a 5% advantage over the first half of 2019.

The city’s monthly Consumption Tax Report, which was released Friday, showed June’s sales performance dwarfed the one from June 2020, when public health orders hindered tourism and business activity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Taxable sales totaled $95.1 million for Aspen retailers in the month of June, which was more than 80% higher than sales from June 2020 ($51.9 million), and also nearly 44 higher than revenue recorded in June 2019 ($66 million), when there was no pandemic or health orders to hurt business.

The city doesn’t give serious consideration to 2020’s retail performance, in terms of comparing sales tax data, because the pandemic skewed those numbers, which is evident by the $20.5 million in sales generated by accommodations in June, which was 238.2% higher than June 2020. Also, June’s $18.3 million in restaurant and bar sales was 121% better than June 2020.

Yet the figures uphold the anecdotal evidence — big outdoor crowds downtown, fully booked restaurants, empty supermarket shelves and unrelenting traffic — that the summer spark is back in Aspen’s retail economy.

“Overall economic activity has returned to or exceeded ‘normal’ levels in most industries as we continue to progress into and through the Summer season,” wrote Anthony Lewin, the city’s senior tax auditor, in an opening narrative accompanying the report. “This is in reflection of 2021 collections relative to a typical year such as 2019, where most industries are experiencing double‐digit growth today relative to just two years earlier and pre‐pandemic.”

Even as year-to-date sales figures through June show an Aspen economy on the upswing, Lewin suggested sales would be even higher had accommodations and restaurant/bar sectors not struggled the first two months of 2021 due to restrictive health orders.

“Despite the strong return in visitation in March through June, occupancy was cut nearly in half in the first two months of the year and created a sizable drop in tax remittance for the year that is slowly being remedied over time,” Lewin wrote.

Through June of this year, sales totaled $92.9 million for accommodations and $61.9 million for restaurant and bars.

By contrast, through June 2019, accommodations generated $127.2 million in sales, while restaurants and bars rang up $68.3 million. And through June 2020, hotels and lodges recorded $88.1 million in revenue, while restaurants and bars drew $53.3 million, according to previous sales tax reports from the city.

Here’s a breakdown of industry sales for June alone and the first half of 2021:

— Accommodations, $20.5 million in June, $92.9 million through first six months

— Restaurants/bars, $18.3 million and $61.9 million

— Sports equipment/clothing, $4.3 million and $32.8 million

— Fashion/clothing, $11.5 million and $45.6 million

— Construction, $12.3 million and $43.6 million

— Food & drug, $6.4 million and $29.9 million

— Liquor, $1.2 million and $6.3 million

— Miscellaneous, $7.9 million and $39.3 million

— Jewelry/gallery, $3.7 million and $16.2 million

— Utilities, $3.4 million and $27.9 million

— Automobile, $3.4 million and $15.5 million

— Marijuana, $944,948 and $5.6 million

— Bank/finance, $695,360 and $2.3 million

— Health/beauty, $640,538 and $3 million

For the city, retail revenue translates to sales tax revenue. Through June, the city had collected $10.2 million in sales taxes. That was more than the first six months of other recent years, including 2020 ($8 million), 2019 ($9.6 million), 2018 ($9 million), 2017 ($8.5 million), 2016 ($8.3 million), and 2015 ($7.9 million), according to this week’s report.



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