Glenwood retail sales nearly flat for 1st quarter

Glenwood Springs finance officials are keeping a closer eye than usual on the trend in retail sales this year as the unknown impacts of the upcoming Grand Avenue bridge construction detour loom on the horizon.

Sales taxes collected by the city through the first quarter of 2017 remained on the plus side, up 1.63 percent for the first three months of the year, according to the city’s latest sales tax figures released Tuesday. That was thanks in large part to strong sales in March, which saw a 3.26 percent year-over-year increase.

Retail sales numbers were also adjusted slightly for February, resulting in a smaller decline in sales taxes for that month than originally reported.

However, the year-to-date increase is hovering just below the 2 percent projected increase in sales taxes used for budgeting purposes by the city.

“We are being careful in what we spend through the first half of the year, but so far we are feeling OK with things,” City Manager Debra Figueroa said. “We do have healthy reserves, and we’re not planning any drastic cuts if we don’t meet that [2 percent].

“Right now, it’s just really important to let everyone know that Glenwood Springs is open for business, and the city is trying to do some things with special events to try to help the downtown businesses in particular,” she said.

That’s also true for the many businesses outside the downtown core, with which the city is planning some outreach, Figueroa said.

The potential impact on the city’s largest retail sales center, Glenwood Meadows, is on the city’s radar as well, she said. Meadows stands to be heavily impacted during the 95-day bridge detour period that begins Aug. 14, because Colorado 82 and all traffic headed to and from Interstate 70 and north Glenwood will be detoured onto Midland Avenue directly adjacent to Meadows.

“We know that’s a potential issue,” Figueroa said. “We are working with them to put in some dedicated [bus park-and-ride] parking in that area during the detour, so hopefully people will go and shop when they get back to their cars.”

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Ride Glenwood bus routes will also continue to use Wulfsohn Road accessing the main parts of Meadows. The city and state transportation officials are hoping to lure as many people as possible out of their cars and into buses and/or onto bikes during the detour.

“We’re very excited to be opening the new West Glenwood Trail in June,” Assistant City Manager Jenn Ooton said. The new path provides a nonmotorized link to Meadows from areas north of Interstate 70 in West Glenwood.

Also helping the March sales figures was a strong month on the tourism front. The city’s accommodations tax collections were up nearly 10.8 percent for March, bringing the first quarter collections to 5.2 percent ahead of 2016. Regular sales taxes collected on overnight stays are also up 7.8 percent for through the first quarter.

The sector-by-sector breakdowns show that sales in the largest single category, general merchandise, are up 3.4 percent for the year. Sales of building materials and supplies are also up 9.9 percent, apparel and accessories is up 15.2 percent, furniture and accessories is up 17.3 percent, and eating and drinking establishments are reporting a 5.2 percent increase through the first quarter.

Sales in the miscellaneous retail category is down 17.2 percent for the year, largely due to the closing of two sporting goods stores last year, Sports Authority and Mountain Sports Outlet, which had reported in that category. Also in the negative for the year through three months is food store sales, which are down 2.1 percent, according to the city’s first-quarter sales tax report.

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