The X factor: They came, they spent | AspenTimes.com
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The X factor: They came, they spent

Janet Urquhart
A crew member breaks down Winter X Games entrance banners Thursday morning after the conclusion of the games Tuesday night. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.
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Record attendance at Winter X Games Nine probably boded well for a spike in retail sales during the month of January, but there’ll be no real way of knowing what percentage of the month’s receipts can actually be attributed to the X factor.Next year may be a different story. Implementing a method of tracking daily gross sales in Aspen is high on the city Finance Department’s agenda and Finance Director Paul Menter would like to see a trial system in place before the year is out.Anecdotally, the impact of the X Games on Aspen’s economy is unmistakable. An estimated 70,000 people attended the games at Buttermilk and many of them spilled into town. Lines of people snaked out the doors of dining establishments and local watering holes last weekend. Bars ran out of beer and restaurants ran out of food.But the economic impact of the event will simply be folded into the city’s January sales tax report, which will probably be released during the first week of March. Breaking out the X Games weekend, or any particular day during the event, is not presently possible. The city tracks sales in 14 categories on strictly a monthly basis, based on sales tax filings by individual businesses after the close of each month.

Tracking daily activity will necessitate a far more detailed system administered by the city and will require a lot of cooperation from the business community, according to Menter.”It would require ongoing cooperation from a lot of businesses in town,” he said. “They’re going to have to be willing to give us daily gross sales tax reporting information. They’re going to have to track it.”Menter’s office will likely come up with an electronic system for filing daily sales receipts. Rather than have every business in town report daily sales tax activity – a gargantuan and unwieldy approach – Menter said the daily reporting would instead involve a statistically relevant sampling of local businesses. “There’s no way every business in town could report on a daily basis,” he said.

Rather, the daily analysis could involve, for example, the 30 largest producers of sales tax revenues in town, or a sampling of businesses in each of the retail categories the city tracks.Either way, there will still be roughly a month’s lag time in reporting the results of the daily tracking, just as there is for the monthly reports, Menter said.”It’s not like we’re going to have a real-time sales tax data base,” he said.And, it would take several years of the daily tracking before the city has the kind of data that would make relevant comparisons possible. Even if the city collects daily sales data during next year’s X Games, it won’t have comparable numbers from prior years with which it can compare the sales figures.

The City Council, however, has for a couple of years expressed its desire to get the daily tracking system in place, largely so the city can measure the impact of special events on the local retail economy.”I think it would be useful to see longer-term trends and get our arms around how special events benefit the retail economy,” Menter said. “It’s got to be implemented over a period of years, though, in order to reap any real rewards.”I think we’d like to start this year with some kind of pilot program.”Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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