Glenwood Springs retail sales end 2017 down 1.9% | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood Springs retail sales end 2017 down 1.9%

Providence Apothecary store manager Bobbi Newberg puts away teas and herbs at the downtown store on Friday.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

After a near rebound in Glenwood Springs retail sales when the new Grand Avenue Bridge opened in November, a rough holiday shopping season resulted in a near 2 percent overall drop in sales for the year.

Sales within Glenwood city limits were down 3.6 percent in December, bringing the year-end decline to a 1.9 percent drop, as compared to 2016 retail sales activity.

One relative bright spot during the holiday stretch, however, was a 2.6 percent increase in sales for businesses falling into the city’s miscellaneous retail category, according to the combined December and year-end sales tax report issued by city finance officials last week.

Many of the smaller downtown shops fall into that catch-all miscellaneous category. And it was those very businesses that were heavily impacted during the three-month bridge closure and detour from mid-August to early November last year while the final segment of the new bridge was being built.

Numerous individual businesses reported monthly declines exceeding 40 percent during that time. The year-end report showed sales in the miscellaneous category were off nearly 14 percent for all of 2017.

Overall for the year, the largest single retail category for the city, general merchandise, was off 3.5 percent; food stores sales were down 3.7 percent; restaurants and bars were down 1.1 percent; and taxable personal services were down 9.5 percent.

On the plus side, sales of apparel/accessories finished the year more than 5.5 percent ahead of 2016; automobile sales and servicing was up 1.9 percent; taxable business services were up 9.5 percent; and sales of building materials and supplies were roughly the same as the prior year.

Sales activity during 2017 resulted in $17,222,574 in sales tax revenue for Glenwood Springs, on roughly $465 million in retail sales for the year based on the city’s 3.7 percent general sales tax.

That’s about $685,000 less in sales taxes than the city had forecast, said Glenwood Springs Finance Director Steve Boyd.

“It could have been worse, we were prepared for a decrease of as much as $1.1 million,” Boyd said.

“The general strength of the economy helped the bottom not completely fall out on us,” he added. “Some businesses of course suffered more than others, and mostly in the places you would expect.”

That includes the area north of the Grand Avenue Bridge, where sales were off about 7.5 percent, Boyd said. Sales at the Glenwood Meadows shopping center, which includes several of the large national retailers, were down 4.8 percent, and the downtown district saw a 4.2 percent decrease, he said.

“Most of these businesses would otherwise have expected an increase in sales of probably around 4 to 5 percent, though, so the punch actually feels more like 10 percent,” Boyd explained.

Also helping to keep things together was the steady flow of overnight visitors to Glenwood Springs during the year. The city’s special accommodations tax was up nearly 3.3 percent for 2017. December saw the biggest month increase for the year, up 14.2 percent compared to the same month the prior year.

The city’s legal marijuana businesses also did well, after all was said and done with the bridge and traffic disruptions. Overall marijuana sales were about the same as they were in 2016, but last year marked the first six months of collections on the special 5 percent city tax on retail marijuana sales.

From July through December, collections on the special pot tax came in at $140,000, which was about $7,000 more than the city had anticipated, Boyd said.

Legal retail sales of marijuana products, made possible by a 2012 statewide vote, now represents a $6.7 million annual business for Glenwood Springs.