City sees slowdown in August retail sales growth
Retail sales in Glenwood Springs continued to grow during August, but at a slower rate than during the previous seven months, according to the city’s latest sales tax report.
City sales tax collections for August were up just 0.15 percent over the same month in 2014.
Although the dollar difference was less than $2,200, it was the first time this year that sales taxes haven’t grown by at least 6.6 percent in the year-over-year monthly comparison.
“It did surprise me a little to see that,” said Charles Kelty, finance director for the city of Glenwood Springs. “Looking at the prior months this year I thought we would see more of an increase, but that didn’t happen.”
It’s too early to tell if the slowdown is any sort of trend toward retail sales stabilizing, he said.
“We would need a few months to see if that’s the case,” Kelty said. “You can’t base anything on that one month.
“There is so much that impacts how people spend, it’s just hard to know what’s driving some of that,” he said
August still came in as the third-highest sales tax month so far this year, at $1.45 million, only about $150,000 behind the two other big summer months, June and July.
Year to date, retail sales are running more than 7.5 percent over 2014. The $10.7 million in sales taxes collected through eight months represents about $289 million in total retail sales for the city.
Sales in most of the major retail categories are up anywhere from 2 percent to 14 percent for the year to date as well, according to the August report.
Lisa Langer, tourism marketing director for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, which handles tourism promotion for the city, chalks the slower August growth to the later Labor Day weekend this year.
The three-day Labor Day weekend landed entirely in September this year, Sept. 4-7. The past three years, at least part of that extended holiday weekend was in late August.
“From what I gathered in talking to folks around town, where Labor Day falls really determines what kind of August you’re going to have,” Langer said.
Hotel occupancy in Glenwood Springs was also down some in August, at about 80 percent, compared to 88 percent occupancy in July, according to the Rocky Mountain Lodging Reports for those months.
Accommodations tax collections for the city were also slower in August, increasing 1.9 percent for the month compared to anywhere from a 9 percent to 20 percent increase in the previous seven months.
But that may be a one-time anomaly for the year as well, Langer said.
“What I’ve also heard is that September bookings were up,” she said. “One of the biggest things I still see is that the lines at all of the restaurants are still long, and it doesn’t seem to matter what night of the week it is. They’re all still really busy.”
Glenwood Springs tends to see a lot of “empty nesters,” visitors without school-aged children and “leaf peepers” this time of year, Langer said of the fall tourism season.
“We also have a lot of foreign visitors right now because the crowds are smaller,” she said.
From a city budget standpoint, Kelty said he remains optimistic.
“We projected we would be 5 percent ahead of last year by the end of the year,” he said. “That’s conservative, and we are hoping we can end up ahead of that.”
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