September sales figures show rebound | AspenTimes.com

September sales figures show rebound

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Retail sales in Aspen posted their first big gain of the year in September, which is no surprise considering the economic meltdown that occurred during the same month last year.

Aspen saw what was likely its single largest one-month decline in sales ever ? nearly 18 percent ? in September 2001 ? a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

This year, September sales were up 7.4 percent over the same month a year ago, according to data released Tuesday by the city Finance Department.

For the first three quarters of the year, overall sales are down 3.7 percent from the same period last year. At the end of August, sales were off last year’s pace by 4.6 percent.

By the end of this year, city Finance Director Paul Menter said he expects total retail sales to pull even to, or even top, last year’s final tally.

“Again, that’s because we had such a dramatic downturn in sales after September 11th last year,” he said.

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Compared to a “normal year,” this year’s total sales will be down, Menter predicted.

Through September of this year, virtually all segments of the local economy continued to lag behind last year’s pace through September. Tourist accommodations were down 5.4 percent for the year, while restaurant/bar business was down 2.2 percent. The two sectors make up nearly half of overall sales.

But for September alone, most industries reported gains over the same month last year. Tourist accommodations, for example, were up nearly 28 percent for the month, and restaurant/bar sales were up 1.6 percent. Clothing sales were up 4.5 percent, specialty retail was up 18.4 percent, and grocery/drug sales were up 5.2 percent.

Down for the month, compared to September 2001, were sports equipment/clothing sales, which were off by nearly 13 percent; utilities, down 2.3 percent; and general retail, down 7.5 percent.

September lodging tax revenues were up 18 percent, compared to the same month last year, while revenues from the city’s real estate transfer tax dedicated to housing were up 34 percent, according to the finance office.

Sales in September totaled $25 million. For the first nine months of the year, retail sales totaled $288.1 million.

Currently, revenues from the city’s 2.2 percent sales tax are running below what was anticipated by about 5 percent. And, revenues in 2001 were down about 5 percent from what the city had expected to take in.

In 2003, the city has budgeted for a 5 percent drop in sales tax revenues, compared to what it budgeted in 2002, according to Menter.

“We’re setting a pretty conservative target,” he said.

The city is bracing for another drop, but hoping for a turnaround, Menter said.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a good year and we’ll rebound,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have the luxury of an excess ? collecting more than we projected ? which would be nice after collecting less than we projected for the last two years.”

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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