City sales up through July, before detour
The last full month before the Grand Avenue bridge closure and detour was a good one on the Glenwood Springs retail front as a whole, despite some reported summertime blues for many individual businesses, especially in the downtown core.
Several downtown business owners approached Glenwood City Council recently expressing concerns that the bridge construction impacts have taken their toll.
Some businesses are reporting sales have been off more than 30 percent through the summer months, though they concurred that much of that downturn came after the bridge closed in mid-August and demolition began to make way for the final segment of the new bridge.
The city’s July sales tax report shows retail activity was actually up 1.72 percent for the month, with roughly $44.5 million in retail sales and spending on taxable business services generating $1.6 million in sales taxes for the city.
That after a slow June in which sales were down 3.6 percent in the year-over-year comparison.
Year to date, retail activity is up just slightly, 0.76 percent, over the first seven months of 2016. The city has budgeted for sales tax revenue to increase 2 percent this year.
Through July, $266.5 million has been spent at Glenwood Springs businesses that are required to collect sales taxes. That has generated a little more than $9.8 million in tax revenue for the city. Glenwood had a record year for sales tax collection in 2016, pulling in over $17.5 million in revenues on $474 million in spending.
A breakdown of July sales by category does help paint a picture of which businesses in particular are hurting amid the ongoing bridge construction, even before the bridge was closed in mid-August.
The miscellaneous retail category, which captures many of the smaller downtown businesses and other locally owned shops around Glenwood, was down nearly 19.8 percent for the month. That category includes the many boutiques and souvenir stores, as well as liquor stores, flower shops and jewelry stores.
The city’s largest retail category, general merchandise, which takes in the large national retailers, was also down 0.73 percent, as was furniture/home furnishings, down 16.62 percent.
Keeping the month on the plus side, however, were automobile sales, servicing and parts, up 19.2 percent; apparel and accessories, up 17.8 percent; business services, up 15.8 percent; taxable transportation services and utilities, up 2.3 percent; building materials and supplies, up 1 percent; and another biggie, restaurants and bars, up almost 5.2 percent for July.
Sales of legal marijuana in Glenwood Springs were also up for the month by nearly 5.2 percent, likely tapping into the summer tourism season.
On the tourism front, regular sales taxes on overnight stays in the city were up 2.6 percent. And the city’s special lodging tax was up almost 1.8 percent for the month. Year to date, taxes on overnight stays are running more than 5 percent ahead of last year, according to the latest figures from the city.
Recently, to help customers find their way around the construction zone to area business, bridge project officials have placed purple “follow the bread crumbs” signs at key points. There has been a delay getting the brick pavers installed in the 700 block of Grand Avenue due to some drainage issues, project spokesman Tom Newland said at the Sept. 7 City Council meeting.
“We do hope to have that done by mid-to-late October,” he said.
Once complete, the pavers will provide a wider walking area for pedestrians to access downtown businesses in that block.
Businesses at Glenwood Meadows have also reported sales were down after the bridge closed and the detour went into effect, partly because of limited access into the shopping center and long traffic backups getting out onto Midland Avenue. Project officials have since changed the timing of the traffic light at West Meadows Drive on weekends to try to cut down on the backups.
South and West Glenwood businesses have also reported access issues and fewer people stopping due to the evening rush-hour backups on Colorado 82 coming through Glenwood Springs.