May sales activity dips |

May sales activity dips

Janet Urquhart

Lodging business dropped 16 percent in May, helping fuel a 1.8 percent dip in overall retail sales activity for the offseason month, compared to May 2003, according to figures released Thursday by the city finance office.The downturn in tourist accommodations in May followed a 9 percent drop in lodging business in April, compared to the same month a year ago.Overall taxable sales for the first five months of the year, however, are up 10.7 percent from the same period in 2003, hinting at a turnaround in the local economy. Tourist accommodations so far this year are up 13.5 percent compared to 2003, despite the drops in April and May.Through May, only liquor store sales are lagging behind last year’s pace, down 3.5 percent, based on sales tax receipts.For the month of May alone, restaurant/bar business was up 6 percent, compared to May 2003. Restaurant/bar sales are up 7.8 percent for the first five months of the year.Sports equipment/clothing sales were up 7.6 percent in May, but general clothing store sales were down 3.4 percent. Utilities plunged by 16 percent; food and drug sales were up 1.8 percent; and liquor store sales were down almost 10 percent. General retail sales, including such items as hardware and appliances, were up nearly 26 percent for the month, while specialty retail sales – gifts, books, antiques, luggage and the like – were down 18.5 percent.May, traditionally the slowest month of the year for retail activity in Aspen, saw $13.3 million in overall sales. The month typically accounts for less than 4 percent of the resort’s total retail sales in an average year, according to the finance office.The city’s sales tax collections are 10.7 percent of last year’s for the first five months of the year. Lodging tax collections are running 12.5 percent ahead of 2003, though they were down significantly in April and May, the sales tax report notes.Aspen’s real estate transfer tax, or RETT, dedicated to housing, is running 47 percent ahead of 2003 collections, fueled by a hot real-estate market. Collections from the RETT dedicated to the Wheeler Opera House are up 42 percent, compared to the first five months of 2003.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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