Second quarter retail sales worst in state history

By Isaac Bonnell

Taxable retail sales fell 14 percent statewide to $25 billion during the second quarter of 2009 compared to a year ago, according to a report from the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR).

This represents the largest, single drop since the state began keeping records in 1974, said DOR spokesperson Mike Gowrylow. The second and third worst declines were the two previous quarters, he added.

Bellingham ranked slightly above the state average, with a 14.1 percent drop in taxable retail sales during the second quarter. Overall, though, Whatcom County faired slightly better than the average, dropping 11.7 percent.

Taxable retail sales includes taxes collected from all retail transactions, from construction and services to hotels and bars, Gowrylow said.

“Construction is a huge factor — it’s about a fifth of the total,” he said.

When separated out, the construction industry saw a 26 percent drop in sales during the second quarter.

To get the true pulse of the retail sector, the state separates out construction and services from the total taxable retail sales. This isolates the “the malls and main streets,” which saw a decline of 10.7 percent statewide, Gowrylow said.

For the retail sector by itself, Whatcom County results were mixed:

Bellingham: down 9.8 percent
Ferndale: down 15.5 percent
Lynden: down 24.0 percent
Blaine: up 27.6 percent
Sumas: up 14.8 percent
Everson: up 11.6 percent

To see statistics broken down by industry, visit the and click on “What’s New.”

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