Retail sales through mid-year in Glenwood Springs are up, bolstered in part by lots of people eating out, a busy tourist season, more building activity, a slight rebound in general merchandise sales and the advent of recreational marijuana sales.
According to the city of Glenwood June sales tax report, retail sales through six months of the year have generated $6.9 million in sales taxes for the city, up nearly 3.5 percent compared to the same period last year.
Sales in June alone were up 4.5 percent compared with June 2013.
In fact, the June sales tax figure of $1,473,852 is only about $127,000 shy of June 2008, before the national recession hit and local retail sales went into a tailspin.
The mid-year sales tax figure for 2014 represents about $187.4 million in total retail sales for the year, based on the city’s sales tax rate of 3.7 percent.
Much of that has been driven by an increase of more than 4 percent in restaurant and bar sales, which is the city’s second-largest retail category. That increase also happens to coincide with the addition of outdoor dining at several downtown restaurants on Seventh Street, which began in June.
“It’s definitely the busiest summer we’ve had in the three years that we’ve been here,” said Rick Dufon, manager at The Pullman restaurant.
“We’re doing bigger numbers for both lunch and dinner, and since we rarely see people eat here twice in a day, that just means there are more people out there,” he said.
The new patio seating was made possible by the city and the Downtown Development Authority’s project to widen the sidewalk area along Seventh Street. While the expanded seating has had an impact, it probably only represents a small percentage increase in overall sales, Dufon said.
“Cosmetically, though, it has a huge effect,” he said. “It looks pretty down here, and people want to come down and check it out.
“I’d say it’s been a brilliant thing,” he said.
Meanwhile, the largest single retail category for the city, general merchandise, which includes the larger national retail stores, is also showing signs of some recovery.
While general merchandise sales had been lagging more than 4.3 percent behind 2013 figures as recently as April, sales in that category were running only 2.4 percent behind last year as of the June report.
Sales in most other categories are running well ahead of last year, including building materials and supplies, which are up more than 9 percent over the first six months of 2013, according to the mid-year report.
Taxable food store sales are also up nearly 3.8 percent; automobile/services stations are up almost 4.5 percent; and sales of furniture and other home furnishings are up a little more than 2 percent.
Also up 6 percent compared with last year is the broad category of miscellaneous retail, which just happens to be where sales of recreational marijuana show up. Colorado voters legalized the possession and sale of marijuana in 2012, but retail sales began just this year following a lengthy regulatory process.
The city issued its first license for retail marijuana sales to Greenwerkz in May, followed by the Green Dragon in June and more recently, the new Green Joint retail sales outlet at 11th and Grand.
“We just got killed over Strawberry Days weekend,” Greenwerkz manager Melissa Finn said of sales during one of the busiest weekends in June. “I’ve never seen so many people in town.”
In particular, marijuana sales to visitors from out of state have been “more than anticipated,” Finn said. “We’ve had people in here from all over the world.”
Also helping to drive things has been the lodging sector, which has been running more than 12 percent ahead of last year, based on collections from the city’s special 2.5 percent accommodations tax. The extra tax, which is on top of the regular city sales tax, goes to fund the city’s tourism marketing efforts, which are handled by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
Keno Rodriguez, manager at the Hampton Inn on Sixth Street, said the 70-room hotel has been averaging over 95 percent occupancy all summer.
More importantly is that the average daily rate is up more than $15 per night from last year, he said.
“We follow a lot of the restaurants pretty closely, and they’re all having a good summer,” Rodriguez said.
On the lodging front, “we still feel like there are more people out there,” he said. “I said when the downturn hit in 2007, 2008, that I didn’t believe we would be back on pace until 2014 or 2015, and I think we’re right on track.
“This is one of our best years, for sure,” he said.