Spokane Journal of Business

Retail sales increase by 4 percent in Spokane County

Some stores here report small gains

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-—LeAnn Bjerken

Taxable retail sales throughout Spokane County increased 4 percent during the first quarter of 2017, compared with the year-earlier period, Washington state Department of Revenue statistics released earlier this month show. 

Total countywide sales hit $2.1 billion during the quarter, up from $1.99 billion in the first quarter of 2016.

John Waite, owner of both Auntie’s Bookstore and Merlyn’s Comics & Games in downtown Spokane, says sales at both stores are up slightly this year compared to last.

“We’re up a bit at both stores, by maybe 1 to 2 percent,” he says. “I’d say this has been more of an average year.  It’s a very difficult retail environment right now, with lots of competition, distractions, and options for consumer dollars.”

Waite says in recent years, entities such as Amazon and other online sales venues have made sales difficult for brick-and-mortar retail stores.  

“Our industries are also susceptible to the blockbuster phenomena,” he says. “Where one big book or game can help a year, and the absence of a blockbuster can hinder a year’s sales.”

Trish Thoen, owner of Cues Boutique at 108 N. Washington, says sales there also have remained relatively steady during the first half of this year compared to last. 

“We’re probably up just a bit, I’d say about 3 percent,” she says. “We have a fairly steady flow of loyal customers both here and from out-of-town areas like Seattle and Montana.” 

Cues is a women’s clothing boutique, specializing in brand-name denim jeans that can be paired with a variety of tops or sweaters. The boutique also offers a selection of jewelry and other accessories. 

Thoen says she expects sales will stay steady through fall and into the holiday season.

“I’m hoping we maintain steady sales as we move into the holidays,” she says. “That’s the goal, anyway.”

Meanwhile, John Schwartz, manager of Spokane outdoor retailer Mountain Gear, at 2002 N. Division, says sales at that store in the first half of 2017 are definitively ahead of last year.

Although he declined to disclose specific figures, Schwartz says the store saw good summer sales, with items such as tents, kayaks, and footwear selling particularly well. 

He says he’s expecting strong sales for the fall and winter seasons, as customers are already inquiring about winter sports gear. 

“It’s not even Labor Day yet, and we’ve already got people asking about skis and snowshoes,” he says. “We had a good winter last year, and we’re expecting a repeat of that this year.”

Statewide, the DOR reported this month that the state’s total taxable retail sales grew to $34 billion in the first quarter, a 5.3 percent increase compared with the same period in 2016. Retail trade, a subset of total taxable retail sales, rose 4 percent to $14.5 billion.

King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Clark counties had taxable retail sales percentage increases of 5.3 percent, 7.6 percent, 5 percent, and 6.7 percent for the quarter, respectively.

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken is the most recent addition to the Journal's news team. A poet, cat lover and antique enthusiast, LeAnn is also an Eastern Washington University alum.

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