Record year for Glenwood Springs retail sales
Glenwood Springs experienced record retail sales in 2015, and December was the largest single month ever for sales in terms of dollars spent, according to just-released year-end sales tax numbers.
The nearly $16.8 million in sales taxes collected for the year represent total retail sales of about $453.5 million, based on the city’s 3.7 percent sales tax rate.
That’s the largest single year for city sales taxes dating back to the pre-recession peak of 2007, when the city reported $16.5 million in sales taxes.
December alone, which is typically the biggest month for retail sales in Glenwood, saw collections totaling $1.85 million on roughly $50 million in spending. That eclipsed the previous single-month record of $1.83 million for December 2007, according to historical sales tax statistics.
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“I would say this could be considered a rebound to the (pre-recession) levels we were seeing,” said Charles Kelty, Glenwood finance director.
In particular, 2007, the year just before the Great Recession hit nationwide, is considered the benchmark for retail sales in Glenwood. It’s the year often referred to by local economic observers as the best gauge in terms of measuring the city’s recovery through the post-recession years.
Glenwood Springs saw yearly sales taxes dip to a low of $13 million in 2009 following the previous high years of 2006, ’07 and ’08, when retail sales generated well over $16 million in tax each of those years.
The record year-over-year percentage increase was 32 percent from 2005 to 2006, Kelty said.
Last year’s sales reflected a 7.37 percent increase over 2014, bolstered by a near 9 percent month-over-month increase in December.
That’s much better than the 5 percent increase the city had been hoping for, and substantially better than the conservative 2 percent increase in sales taxes figured for budgeting purposes, Kelty said.
“We did have a very good year,” he said. “And I would say we’re probably looking at the new normal.”
However, those thoughts are tempered by the unknowns over the next two years related to the Grand Avenue bridge construction and how that might impact retail sales, especially in the downtown area, he said.
“With the bridge, we just don’t know what 2016 and ’17 are going to bring,” Kelty said, noting that the city is continuing to budget based on a 2 percent increase in sales taxes for this year.
Mike Mercatoris of ZG Hospitality, owners of two downtown restaurants, the Grind and the Riviera Supper Club and Wine Bar, as well as Zheng Asian Bistro at Glenwood Meadows, isn’t too concerned about the impacts of the bridge construction.
“To be honest, we just need to do a better job of letting people know they can still get here,” Mercatoris said. “It’s actually cleaner on Seventh Street and the walkways are more clear since construction started than they have been in years.”
Glenwood Springs’ restaurant and bar sector saw a near 10 percent increase in business last year compared with 2014, according to the year-end sales tax report.
Restaurants brought in $62 million in business last year, generating almost $2.3 million in sales taxes for the city. It’s the second-largest retail sector to general merchandise stores, which brought in $80 million in sales last year and more than $2.9 million in taxes, for a 2.2 percent increase over the prior year.
“It did seem like it was a good year, with good synergy between the different restaurants and a lot of energy downtown,” Mercatoris said. “The numbers obviously show it.”
He credited the city’s tourism board for doing a good job over the last two years to market all that Glenwood Springs has to offer, including its restaurant scene. That needs to continue through the bridge construction in order to keep the momentum, he said.
“I’m very excited for the future, and still feel like we’re just barely on the cusp of what Glenwood has to offer,” Mercatoris said. “We can really be a food and dining destination.”
The new bridge, once completed, will only complement that, he said.
Glenwood also saw a 16.6 percent increase in automobile sales credited to the city. That sector takes in vehicle servicing and parts as well. Automotive/service stations accounted for about $55 million in sales last year, and a little over $2 million in sales taxes.
In addition, food store sales were up 4.6 percent, building materials and supplies up 12.1 percent, apparel/accessories up 4 percent, and hotels/motels up 12.87 percent. The city’s dedicated accommodations tax finished the year 10.8 percent ahead of 2014, and December alone saw a 15.7 percent increase.
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Scott Ely founded Sunsense Solar 30 years and initially operated as a one-man crew. His focus was installing solar electric systems on backwoods cabins off the grid. Now the company’s work includes some of the biggest solar farms in the region.