Report: Inflation, tourism drive record-setting 2022 for retail sales in Aspen |

Report: Inflation, tourism drive record-setting 2022 for retail sales in Aspen

Staff report
Inflation boosted Aspen's retail sales in 2022.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Hotels, restaurants, shops, and other Aspen business sectors collectively produced a record-setting $1.2 billion in taxable sales in 2022, according to the latest figures available from the city of Aspen’s finance department. 

Last year’s sales total got a major assist from inflation, which peaked nationally in June with a 9.1% rate and gradually declined, with December ending the year with an annualized 6.5% rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

December sales

December crowned 2022 with $169.7 million in taxable sales in Aspen, a 13.4% improvement over December 2021.

“Monthly economic activity in December exhibited a strong surge in consumer spending in preparation for the holiday season,” according to comments from Pete Strecker, the city finance director, in the tax report issued Feb. 15. 

Brick-and-mortar sales comprised 84% of the retail spending in December, and online/external sales made up for 16% of the sales, the report said. 

Aspen’s retail sectors posted the following performances in December:

  • Accommodations, $53 million in sales, up 7.1% over December 2021
  • Restaurants/bars, $12.7 million, up 15.5%
  • Sports equipment/clothing, $15.1 million, up 6.7%
  • Fashion/clothing, $22.1 million, up 16.8%
  • Construction, $11.4 million, up 18%
  • Food and drug, $10.2 million, up 77.5%
  • Liquor, $1.8 million, down 0.7% from December 2021
  • Miscellaneous, $14.1 million, up 5.4%
  • Jewelry/gallery, $9 million, up 15%
  • Utilities, $5.9 million, up 14.6%
  • Automobile, $3.4 million, up 48%
  • Cannabis, $723,289, down 14.3%
  • Bank/finance, $642,041, up 18.9%
  • Health/beauty, $577,350, down 39.8% 

2022 overall sales

Eleven of the 14 business sectors that fuel Aspen’s retail economy posted sales increases last year over 2021, with accommodations leading the way with $354.6 million in taxable sales. 

Here’s a look at those sectors’ end-of-year tallies:

  • Accommodations, $354.6 million, up 38.1% over 2021
  • Restaurants/bars, $192.8 million, up 24.4%
  • Sports equipment/clothing, $73.4 million, up 11.4%
  • Fashion clothing, $149.9 million, up 22.8%
  • Construction, $88.7 million, down 6.5%
  • Food and drug, $80.3 million, up 16.4%
  • Liquor, $13.5 million, down 2.2%
  • Miscellaneous, $105.8 million, up 12.3%
  • Jewelry/gallery, $57.5 million, up 22.7%
  • Utilities, $49.6 million, even
  • Automobile, $36.1 million, up 8.5%
  • Cannabis, $9.6 million, down 14%
  • Bank/finance, $5.4 million, up 21.3%
  • Health/beauty, down 36%

“There were three sectors that experienced declines including liquor, cannabis and health/beauty; however, all of these industries represent just a small slice of the local economy,” Strecker said. “One notable item, the general cannabis industry, has seen declining sales across the entire state of Colorado, down 21% from 2021 collections statewide, and is anticipated to be tied to neighboring states such as Arizona and New Mexico recently adopting legalized marijuana sales. This may be a partial explanation to why this sector of the economy has remained down for the year and may be adjusting to a new baseline.”

The city’s haul

The city collects a 2.4% sales tax that retailers charge to customers. 

December alone was the most lucrative month of 2022, generating $3.4 million in sales tax receipts for the city, according to the report. 

End-of-year receipts amounted to $29.1 million, an 18.8% increase over $24.5 million the city collected in 202. 

Collections of the city’s 2% lodging tax also rose in 2022.  Three-quarters of the collections from the lodging tax help fund the city’s promotional efforts. 

December generated $683,005 for the city’s promotional coffers, which was a 2.4% rise from the $668,832 made in December 2021.

The remaining one-quarter of the collections support the city’s transportation fund, which received $227,669 in December alone and $1.5 million for the year, representing respective increases of 2.4% over December 2021 ($222,278) and 33% over the entirety of 2021 ($1 million).

The report also addressed numbers for the city’s real estate transfer tax, paid by buyers of free-market real estate within city limits at the close of sale.

January produced $1.2 million in RETT collections for the city’s housing fund, a drop of 16.8% from January 2021. 

The RETT made $630,975 for the Wheeler Opera House and other arts and culture programs, which was 23.9% off from January 2021.