Retail sales show modest gains |

Retail sales show modest gains

ASPEN Aspen retail activity during the month of April edged upward 4.4 percent despite the closure of the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport a week before the chairlifts shut down April 15.For the first four months of 2007, retail sales were up 4 percent over the same period last year, according to figures released Tuesday by the city of Aspen finance office.April is one of the four slowest months of the year for the resort’s retail sales, finance director Paul Menter noted in his report, but so far, Aspen is well off the pace of repeating last year’s record-breaking sales totals.Sales in April 2006 were up nearly 18 percent from the same month in ’05, and sales for the year were up 11.2 percent during the first four months of 2006.By the close of last year, Aspen had logged a record $447.3 million in receipts – a 6.4 percent gain over 2005.

“This is more of a normal year,” Menter said.Still, this year’s more modest numbers reflect a 9 percent gain in tourist accommodations through April – the category is the single largest segment of the overall retail economy, accounting for about 34 percent of overall sales during the first four months of 2007.Restaurant/bar receipts, however, were essentially flat, compared to the early months of 2006. That category is the second-largest, making up 17 percent of overall sales through April.What’s happening in that segment may be a hint that the resort is reaching its maximum potential, according to Menter.”It looks as though we may be hitting a plateau,” he said. “My theory is that we may be hitting economic capacity.”At some point in the future, we will see a retraction in retail sales. We know it will happen because it always happens,” Menter said. “You can’t have a record year every year, though we’ve had a pretty good run.”The resort has seen real growth in retail sales annually since 2004, he said.During the month of April, various categories showed significant losses or gains, but small changes in sales volume during a slow, offseason month can result in wide percentage swings, Menter said, suggesting year-to-date sales represent the more telling numbers.General retail sales, which include hardware, appliances and construction materials, were up almost 30 percent through April – apparently a reflection of an ongoing building/remodeling boom in town.Food and drug sales were up 6.6 percent for the first four months of the year, while sports equipment/clothing sales were down slightly and clothing receipts were essentially flat. Utilities were down 7.8 percent for the year to date, but the finance office is reviewing the taxpayers in that category to determine the accuracy of the downturn, according to Menter’s report.Retail sales in April totaled $22.4 million, and year-to-date sales through April totaled $198 million, based on sales tax reporting to the city.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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