Taxable retail sales drop, but retail trades still strong

The Bellingham Business Journal

Overall taxable retail sales in the state declined 6.3 percent during the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, according to a new report from the Washington State Department of Revenue.

While total taxable retail sales declined to $26.0 billion, the retail trade component remained flat at $12.1 billion. Retail trade is a subset of total taxable retail sales that includes retailers but excludes other industries such as services and construction.

In Whatcom County, total taxable retail sales were down 1.2 percent, even though the retail trades saw a 2.8 percent increase in the same period.

Continuing weakness in construction, which is down 23.4 percent over last year, weighed down overall statewide results.

Some retailing sectors experienced gains in the fourth quarter. Auto sales were up 4 percent, department stores posted a 6 percent gain, and sporting goods, toys, book and music stores climbed 6.6 percent over last year.

Other retail sectors weren’t so lucky. Building materials and garden equipment dropped 6.1 percent and electronics and appliances were off 5.6 percent.

Overall taxable retail sales are down $5.1 billion from a 2007 peak of $31.1 billion and are the lowest since the $25.0 billion recorded during the fourth quarter of 2004.

For a breakdown of taxable retail sales by city and county, click here.

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