Sales in May lag 2.6% behind 2002 |

Sales in May lag 2.6% behind 2002

Retail sales in Aspen continued to lag about 3 percent behind last year’s pace at the close of May, which is typically the slowest month of the year for sales tax collections.In May alone, sales were down 2.6 percent compared to the same month in 2002, according to figures released Tuesday by the city finance office. The decline in sales activity crossed most sectors of the local retail economy.City officials will be watching June numbers, which will be compiled next month, for signs of a rebound with the start of the summer season. June brings the annual Aspen Food & Wine Magazine Classic and the start of the Aspen Music Festival and School. In addition, Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ June Festival took place in Aspen – it was the first time the jazz concerts were held in Aspen in more than a decade.”It’ll be interesting to see if that gave us a bump. I have a feeling it probably did,” said Paul Menter, city finance director.There was apparently little to bump up sales in May, though, when some businesses close for an off-season hiatus.Tourist accommodations were down 10.7 percent for the month, compared to May 2002, while restaurant/bar business essentially remained even, sales tax collections indicate.Among the large producers of sales tax revenue, only utilities showed a strong May, up nearly 17 percent from the same month a year ago.This year’s cold, snowy spring may have boosted utility revenues, as Aspenites kept the heat on, but it didn’t do much for the bicycle business, according to Michael Wampler, owner of Aspen Velo.”It was my worst May in 10 years. It was down significantly,” said Wampler, who attributed some of the decline to the poor early season biking weather. “It snowed until May 20.”Sports equipment/clothing store business in general was down 3.3 percent for the month, and clothing stores saw a 5.7 percent drop. Liquor store sales were down 3.2 percent; general retail sales were down 12.3 percent, and specialty retail sales were off by nearly 10 percent.Food and drug sales were about even with May 2002.For the first five months of the year, tourist accommodations were down 6.2 percent, while restaurant/bar proceeds were up 2.4 percent. Together, the two sectors make up about half of overall retail sales.For the year so far, sports equipment/clothing sales are down almost 6 percent, and clothing sales are down 7.5 percent.Liquor store sales are up 5.2 percent, utilities are up 4.1 percent, and food and drug sales are up 7.5 percent, compared to the first five months of 2002.General retail sales, including such items as hardware, paint and appliances, were down 20.6 percent for the year, while specialty retail – gifts, books, antiques, luggage and the like – were down 3.8 percent.Retail sales for the year, through May, totaled $156 million, based on sales tax collections. The month of May alone generated $13.5 million in sales.The city’s sales tax collections were down 2.2 percent, compared to last year, while lodging tax collections through May were off by nearly 3 percent, compared to 2002.[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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