Taxable retail-trade sales rose 5.3 percent in Spokane County and 5.1 percent in the city of Spokane during the third quarter of 2002.
The county logged retail-trade sales of $823 million, up from $782 million in the third quarter of 2001, and the city recorded retail-trade sales of $435 million, up from $414 million, the Washington state Department of Revenue says.
Such sales were up 10.6 percent in Pierce County, 3.8 percent in King County, 5 percent in Snohomish County, and 6.1 percent statewide. In the states large cities, they were up 6.9 percent in Tacoma, 3 percent in Seattle, and 2.9 percent in Everett.
Under the states record-keeping system, retail trade includes only sales at retail outlets, while overall taxable retail sales figures kept by the state include other types of sales, such as in services, construction, contracting, manufacturing, transportation, and communications.
Overall retail sales rose in Spokane County by only $5 million, or less than half a percentage point, to $1.461 billion in the third quarter. Overall retail sales in the city of Spokane grew even less significantly, by $1 million to $791 million, for a jump of 0.1 percent. Statewide, they rose 2.8 percent during the third quarter, to $22.26 billion from $21.65 billion.
Several sectors of the Spokane-area economy posted substantial gains in taxable retail-trade sales, including automobiles and building materials and hardware. Some sectors reported significant declines, however, including department stores and wholesalers.
Observers here attribute the growth in retail-trade sales to financing incentives from automakers, the performance of key retail outlets, and low mortgage rates, which are prompting people to refinance their homes to tap into their equity or to free up more of their monthly income for remodeling or other spending.
Margaret Smith, a Spokane County budget analyst, says the growth in building-materials and hardware sales, which rose by $5.1 million in the county and by $2.2 million in the city, mirrors a national trend.
After Sept. 11, people started putting more money into their homes, their long-term investments, she says. Building-supply stores, such as Home Depot Inc. and Lowes Cos. Inc., have performed well here recently, she says.
Rich Hadley, president and CEO of the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, has observed the same trend.
More and more people are doing things at home, doing things with their families, he says. The prospect that the U.S. soon could be at war is contributing to that trend and, in turn, the home-improvement, hobby, and consumer-electronics sectors are performing well, he says. While furniture and home-appliance sales remained steady here in the third quarter, electronics and music stores together showed an almost $2 million gain in taxable sales in the city and a $2.3 million gain in the county.
Incentive financing boosts sales
The automobile industrys use of incentive financing contributed heavily to the Spokane areas gain in sales, Hadley says. That sectors taxable sales in Spokane County rose to $159.6 million in the third quarter from $146.7 million in the year-earlier period. In the city of Spokane, they rose to $75.6 million from $67.5 million.
I think the automobile industry deserves as much credit as anybody, including Congress and the president, for keeping the economy going, he says. Spokane is an automobile dealership center for a wide region, with a strong domestic and foreign supply. The industry is keeping consumer interest high by offering unbelievable financing, he adds.
Smith says a row of stores in the Spokane Valley Mall Plaza, located just west of the mall, is contributing much to the countys growth in retail sales. The outlets have performed well since they opened about 18 months ago, she says.
That area is driving that increase in retail sales, Smith says.
Molly Russell, acting comptroller for the city of Spokane, says the city is benefiting from building materials sales associated with the restoration of several old downtown buildings, which are being converted into office, retail, and residential spaces, she says.
Sales-tax receipts for December, usually by far the most active month for retail sales because of holiday shopping, will be reported later this month.
Contrary to many reports, Hadley says that retailers in North Spokane, downtown, and in the Valley say the Christmas season was better than last year, and that has helped the fourth quarter be better than 2001s fourth quarter. Of course, 2001s fourth quarter wasnt too hot.
Overall, the growth in retail sales is a positive sign, Hadley says.
Were ahead of last year, he says. The Department of Revenues report shows the solidness of our retail market as the hub of a wide, wide region.
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