Cars, hardware help drive retail rebound
Automobile sales and servicing, bolstered by a new dealership that opened at the start of the year, plus big gains in the building materials and supplies sector, which welcomed a new hardware store in April, have proven golden for Glenwood Springs’ retail sales this year.
Overall, retail sales grew nearly 12.3 percent in September compared with the same month last year, and sales activity through the third quarter in Glenwood is up almost 6.5 percent over 2013, according to the city’s September sales tax report.
Leading the way this year with a 13.4 percent increase over last year has been the automotive/service stations category, where sales have risen steadily in the two years since two new auto dealerships, Mountain Chevrolet and High Country Honda, entered the market.
Sales in that category include cars and trucks sold to Glenwood Springs residents, plus all sales of parts at dealership service departments and independent auto repair and service stations as well as sales at convenience stores that are part of a gas station.
Automobile sales to those living outside Glenwood Springs are credited to their place of residence for sales tax purposes. Likewise, sales taxes on vehicles purchased by a Glenwood resident in another town eventually come back to Glenwood Springs.
Through September, a total of $33.2 million in sales had been reported for the automotive sector alone, resulting in a little over $1.2 million in sales taxes, based on the city’s 3.7 percent sales tax rate.
A comparative analysis shows the first nine months of 2012 generated about $27.5 million worth of automobile-related sales. That number was about $29.3 million last year.
“There has been an uptick since about May of this year, which has been very welcome,” said Will Hamner, owner of Alpine Motors repair shop on South Glen Avenue. “I think it’s a reflection of the overall economy, and getting some more people back to work and with expendable cash in their pockets.
“People seem to be better able to catch up on vehicle maintenance that maybe has been on the back burner,” he said. “Plus, we’ve had a lot more tourists coming in this year who were passing through.”
Mountain Chevrolet owner Michael Payne reports that car sales have been down some this year. But sales of trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles have resulted in a slight overall gain for the year so far, he said.
“That probably has something to do with gas prices going down some,” Payne said.
The synergy created earlier this year when High Country Honda opened next door has helped, he said.
“It’s kind of like having a restaurant row, where a majority of the makes and models are represented and where people come to an area because they see us as a regional auto center,” Payne said.
Service department sales have been driven in part by product recalls this past year, he added. But more new vehicle owners in general are also sticking with their dealer for servicing, rather than going to independent shops for regular maintenance.
That’s partly due to the fact that warranties are getting bigger and covering more things, Payne said.
“People are also keeping their cars longer than they used to,” he said, adding that the parts and service department had a record month in October as well.
Another retail sector that has been outperforming last year by a large amount is building materials and supplies, sales of which are up 9.7 percent through September, according to the latest city sales tax report.
Roughly $30.7 million in sales have been reported to the city in that category, which includes the Lowe’s Home Improvement Store at Glenwood Meadows. Building materials and supplies generated $1.1 million in sales taxes for the city through nine months.
Sales in that category are up from about $28 million for the same period in 2013.
Much of that increase is likely due to the return of Big John’s Ace Hardware, which reopened on South Glen in late March after three years’ absence from the Glenwood market.
“I’d say we’re doing about what I had expected in the way of business, and have surpassed what Ace had projected,” said owner John Lindsey. “I knew that business was here from before, and I’m just glad to be off to a good start.”
Lindsey owned and operated Big John’s Building and Home Center on Devereux Road for many years, until mid-2011 when the sale of the property he had been leasing forced him to close.
Since his reopening at the more-visible Highway 82/South Glen location, Lindsey said the business has been “well-received.”
“We had a strong lawn and garden season, and paint sales have been good,” he said. “Power tools have also been strong for us.”
Other sales sectors that have seen big increases this year are miscellaneous retail, which includes the new recreational marijuana sales that began in May in Glenwood, up 12.6 percent; home furnishings, up 11.8 percent; restaurants and bars, up 6.5 percent; food stores, up 4 percent; and regular sales tax on overnight stays at hotels and motels, up a whopping 12.8 percent.
Likewise, the city’s separate accommodations tax on overnight stays was up 18.3 percent in September, and for the year to date is running 13.8 percent ahead of 2013.
“This supports the notion that we had a very good September, following a very busy summer tourism season,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Leo McKinney said. “I tip my hat in the direction of our tourist-based businesses, the Chamber Resort Association, the city’s tourism board, and all the other folks who make Glenwood such a wonderful place to visit.”
BIG BOX SALES LAG
The city’s largest single retail sales category, general merchandise, continues to hover just barely above 2010 levels and for the year to date is running about 0.75 percent behind last year.
Through three quarters of the year, the general merchandise category, which includes Target, Wal-Mart and other department stores, had generated a little over $2 million in sales taxes on $55.2 million in total retail sales.
“It seems people’s spending patterns are evolving,” McKinney said. “Obviously, visitors are coming to Glenwood Springs and enjoying the revitalized restaurant scene, but it also seems residents of the valley are spending less at big box stores.”
Following a similar trend, sales in the city’s apparel/accessories category have also stabilized since increasing two years ago when the Ross Dress For Less store opened in the Glenwood Springs Mall. Through September, sales in that category were down 0.06 percent compared with 2013.
Total retail sales in Glenwood Springs for the year of $306.5 million have brought in $11.3 million in sales taxes through nine months, according to the latest sales tax report.
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