Sales taxes just lagging Glenwood budget targets
Though retail sales in Glenwood Springs through April continued to outpace last year, the 1.4 percent increase through four months is still coming up a little short of the city’s projections for the year.
Whether that trend will improve through the busy summer months before and during the Grand Avenue bridge closure and detour that hits in August remains to be seen.
To try to avoid a reverse trend, though, the city and the Glenwood Chamber Resort Association are taking steps through their tourism promotion efforts to keep people coming to town and spending money.
Earlier this year, the city allocated an additional $20,000 beyond the regular promotions budget to encourage those living in surrounding communities and across the Western Slope of Colorado to continue making Glenwood a day trip or overnight destination.
“We just want to make sure people are still aware of us, and that they want to come,” Kristin Barta, tourism marketing project manager for the chamber, said during a presentation to City Council last week.
The effort is utilizing primarily social media, including YouTube and Facebook, to repurpose some of the broader promotional campaigns that have been in place statewide and nationally.
“We still want people from the neighboring towns to come, because we do rely on those sales taxes,” Barta said.
Although the modest increase in sales taxes for the city year to date through April is running about 0.6 percent below budget projections, it’s not off enough to be a huge concern at this point, said Jenn Ooton, assistant city manager and economic and community development director.
“We are monitoring it, but it’s still pretty close to that projection, and we’re glad to see some of those tourism dollars going to specifically target our regional tourists,” Ooton said.
The city has also budgeted extra dollars this year to organize a series of special events aimed at attracting regional tourists to town, including the upcoming Fourth of July celebration, and an Aug. 12 “farewell” event in advance of the bridge closure that will make way for the final segment of the new bridge.
Also on the slate will be a fall harvest festival and a “wine walk” in conjunction with the Hotel Colorado’s holiday lighting celebration.
“We do want to encourage folks to shop Glenwood, and we do want people to come downtown in particular,” Ooton said.
One downtown shop owner said the spring tourist traffic for her was surprisingly busier than last year.
“The tourists have still been coming in, but we’ve not had the volume of people we’re used to seeing, especially the locals,” Nicole Nelson, owner of the Elizabeth Dean Boutique in the 700 block of Grand Avenue, said.
This past Saturday and Sunday during Strawberry Days weekend was particularly busy, she said.
“For the first time since I opened the shop, we were just slammed for Strawberry Days,” Nelson said.
As a way to help ride out the 95-day detour period when her shop will be ground zero for the final bridge construction, Nelson said she is arranging to use a mobile camper to take her store to other parts of town and elsewhere in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“In case it does slow down at the store, we’ll be ready,” she said.
Through April, the city had taken in nearly $5.1 million in sales taxes on roughly $137.5 million in retail sales throughout Glenwood Springs.
Breaking that down by retail sector presents a mixed bag. While sales in the largest single category, general merchandise, have been up about 14.5 percent for the year, sales in some other key sectors are down.
That included a 16 percent drop compared with the first four months of 2016 in the miscellaneous retail category, which includes such things as liquor stores, office supply stores, drug stores, book stores, jewelry stores, florists and sporting goods.
The latter sector is the most likely reason for the big drop, as two sporting goods stores closed during the first half of 2016, and the April-June numbers from last year would have still reflected the final closeout sales for Sports Authority.
Elsewhere, sales of building materials and supplies were up nearly 9.4 percent through April, apparel and accessories were up 5.6 percent, food sales were up 2.3 percent, and sales taxes on eating and drinking establishments were up 0.86 percent.