GJ retail sales expected to increase over last year
Christmas is shaping up to be merrier than expected for Western Slope retailers compared to their counterparts around the state.
Grand Junction’s sales tax collections are on track to exceed last year’s with a 7.5 percent increase projected for the year.
Grand Junction has had one of Colorado’s lowest unemployment figures among the major markets this year.
Retailers also are noticing shoppers starting to emerge from their homes to make holiday purchases.
“It’s starting later, but the holiday shopping season has started, as you can see,” said Cheryl Lucas, owner of Crystal Books & Gifts, 439 Main St. Several customers browsed near the front of the store during the noon hour on a recent weekday. The store, which sells items including meditative and self-help books, pit and pendulum sets and feng shui items, has been on Main Street for 21 years.
“In the 1980s, this street was a ghost town,” she said. “At least half the stores on Main were boarded up when Exxon pulled out. Our house, in a year’s time, went to half the value. It was scary.”
Even in the nation’s current recession, scary doesn’t apply, at least this season. Shoppers were plentiful last week, many of them hitting stores such as Triple Play Records, New York Moon apparel store and Benge’s Shoe Store.
Prior to the economic downturn, officials had projected sales tax collections to go up 10 percent over last year she said.
“It’s still a growth indicator,” said Jodi Romero, financial operations manager for the city of Grand Junction. “I think there’ll be some economic impact, but not the impact others are seeing around the nation in terms of decreases. I think our sales revenue will still be more than 2007, even through this quarter.”
Grand Junction experienced upward trends through September in sales tax collections.
Through October, sales tax collections in Grand Junction are 5.1 percent ahead of what they were at the same time in 2007, officials said.
“We may not hit 7.5 percent, is in essence what that means,” Romero said. “We’re still hoping we will, but it will depend on the holiday shopping.”
Fort Collins was down in sales tax collections for October by 1.3 percent from October 2007, said Jeremy Reese, revenue manager for the city of Fort Collins.
Year-to-date through October, Fort Collins sales tax collections are up 0.7 percent from last year.
The U.S. Census Bureau predicts retail in December nationally will be down 8.5 percent.
Bob Eichem, finance director for the city of Boulder, said sales tax collected through October was up 1.9 percent over last year and officials project a 4.2 percent year-over-year increase.
Meanwhile, city of Denver’s sales and use tax collections were down in the month of October by 4.3 percent from the previous October.
“We expect it to slow down, but I don’t know to what extent,” said Ed Scholz, budget director for the city of Denver. “Year-to-date through October, we are 3.1 percent ahead of last year.
However, our budget assumed 5.3 percent growth.”
Lucas said she doubted the economic crisis the city has seen before will visit the same way
Grand Junction learned from its mistakes and is better positioned to take the hits economic hard times bring, Lucas said. The economy has diversified into other professions since the 1980s, including the medical profession, she said.
“People remember what it was like,” she said. “I think we’re insulated a little bit right now.”
Unemployment in Grand Junction rose slightly from September’s 3.8 percent, but the October figure was the lowest of Colorado’s major markets.
“Our retail is steady with the holiday season,” said Jennifer Hobbs, spokeswoman for Mesa Mall. “We’re not having the shining star of Mesa Mall holiday history, but we’re definitely holding our own.”