Retail sales on blistering pace |

Retail sales on blistering pace

Joel Stonington

Spending in February continued a record-breaking trend, leaping forward 13.6 percent from the same month last year.Retail sales in February totaled $52.4 million in Aspen, compared with $46.6 million spent during February of last year. Year-to-date sales are $105.7 million, showing a 13.6 percent increase over last year at this point, according to a report by the city finance office. Nearly every segment of the economy tracked by the finance office posted double-digit gains in February after a similarly cheery report from January. “We’ve had some strong growth years, and it appears to be continuing,” said Paul Menter, finance director for Aspen. “The size of the economic engine in town has reached a new level. We’re in a different economy than we were two or three years ago.”In January, some of the big advances were attributed to big events like the X Games and Gay Ski Week. February, however, does not have any major events. Though the numbers may seem to be large, when adjusted for inflation they are only now coming onto the same level as the mid-1990s.Real estate posted eye-popping gains, with real estate transfer tax collections through March up 36 percent compared with the same period in 2005, and year-to-date they’re ahead of 2005 by 83 percent. “It’s a very unique situation,” Menter said. “It’s a bear market with such a high volume of transactions with such high prices. It continues to amaze me.”Lodging posted major gains as well, with spending up 14.8 percent for February and year-to-date spending up 13.5 percent. For February, only the general retail category, encompassing purchases such as building materials and appliances, posted at double-digit decline, at 13.9 percent. The largest segments of the economy are all up – tourist accommodations were up 10.2 percent; restaurants/bars 6.4 percent; clothing stores 19.8 percent; utilities 23.8 percent; sports equipment/clothing 16.2 percent; food and drug stores 6.8 percent; and specialty retail 8.8 percent. Among the smaller segments of the economy, jewelry receipts fell 2.5 percent, galleries saw an increase of 481.2 percent, T-shirt store sales were down 2.8 percent, and fur sales went up 41.1 percent. Aspen closed 2005 with annual retail sales that were up 10.5 percent from 2004.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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