2016 sets record for retail sales in Glenwood Springs
Avg. price of goods 3rd quarter comparison
Dozen eggs = $2.24 (2015) to $2.09 (2016)
Half gallon milk = $2.04 (2015) to $1.79 (2016)
Beer = $9.19 (2015) to $7.64 (2016)
Women’s slacks = $37 (2015) to $44 (2016)
Men’s shirt = $36 (2015) to $45 (2016)
Boy’s jeans = $21.66 (2015) to $27 (2016)
Source: Council for Community and Economic Research Glenwood Springs price survey
Glenwood Springs had a second-straight record year in terms of retail sales activity in 2016, but the reason isn’t entirely that people were simply buying more stuff.
A look at cost-of-living data year over year reveals that at least a portion of the increase in dollar volume for sales of everything from food and clothes to eating out, staying overnight and buying souvenirs also has to do with some things just costing more.
It’s not an exact science, though, and multiple factors are likely at play, according to Nathan Perry, an economist for Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
“I’d be surprised if it’s purely price driven,” Perry said. “People may have more money in Glenwood Springs, so they’re going out and spending more and the quantity of goods sold increases.”
If demand is up, he explained, then prices can go up too, so the same quantity of goods sold in turn would bring in more sales taxes.
In any case, 2016 was another banner year for Glenwood Springs where sales taxes were up 4.2 percent, topping $17 million for the first time ever, according to the year-end sales tax report released by the city last week.
The near $17.6 million in sales taxes for the year surpassed the $16.8 million collected in 2015, which broke a record dating back to 2008. That was the last big year for retail sales locally before the Great Recession hit nationally and resulted in several straight years of lagging sales activity.
The money collected for the city coffers last year reflects approximately $477.5 million in sales for Glenwood Springs retailers, restaurants, overnight hotel stays and taxable services, based on the city’s sales tax rate of 3.7 percent.
Within that overall amount, general merchandise accounted for $80 million in sales, down slightly compared with 2015. On the plus side, eating and drinking establishments generated $63 million in sales activity (up 2.7 percent); food sales came in at $57.5 million (up 1.4 percent) despite national food price deflation; automobile sales, parts and service were at $56 million (up 2.1 percent); and sales of building materials and supplies accounted for $51.2 million (up 10.6 percent).
In an indication that tourism was up last year, sales tax on hotel and motel stays was up 8.1 percent, bringing in $1.7 million in taxes on $47 million in sales activity. The city’s special accommodations tax was also up nearly 6.9 percent over 2015.
That’s one area where an average price increase is a contributor. According to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report for December, participating Glenwood Springs lodges charged an average daily rate of $132.39 per night in 2016, compared with $124.86 a night the previous year. However, the percentage of rooms occupied on average over the course of the year was actually about the same as in 2015, according to the report.
A broader look at cost factors is provided in a Cost of Living Index produced by the Council for Community and Economic Research, in which the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association participates.
“We take part in a regular cost of living survey, where every quarter we go out and price certain items to get a price comparison,” said Marianne Virgili, president and CEO for the chamber.
The index measures relative price levels for a variety of consumer goods, not only retail items, but housing, utilities, transportation and health care.
Looking at the third quarter for both 2015 and 2016, the composite index rose from 115.7 (meaning the cost of living in Glenwood Springs was 15.7 percent above the national average), to 121.6.
Grocery items rose in the price-level comparison from just 0.5 percent over the national average during the third quarter of 2015, to 6 percent above average for the third quarter of 2016, according to the index’s comparisons. Miscellaneous goods and services increased in the quarterly comparison from 9.3 percent above average to 14.8 percent above average.
The Cost of Living Index report also looks at average prices for several individual goods. In the quarterly comparison, prices fell for things like milk, eggs and beer, but increased for various types of clothing (see breakout box).
One retail item that’s not included in the national survey, legalized recreational and medical marijuana, saw a 6.4 percent increase in sales in Glenwood Springs for 2016. A total of $6.7 million in marijuana sales generated $248,084 in city sales taxes for the year, according to the year-end sales report.
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