Retail sales a mixed bag for the Harbor

Taxable retail sales dropped off by 12 percent over 2011 in Aberdeen while increasing 4.7 percent statewide during the first quarter of 2012, the state Department of Revenue reported Thursday.

Statewide, taxable retail sales increased to $24.1 billion for the quarter, with King County up 5.7 percent at $9.5 billion, followed by Pierce County at $2.5 billion (up 2.4 percent).

Taxable retail sales in Grays Harbor County went from $187.7 million in the first quarter of 2011 to $179 million for the same period this year, a drop of 4.49 percent.

Pacific County’s taxable retail sales went from $40.1 million to $39.9 million, a drop of .48 percent.

Aberdeen’s taxable retail sales dropped by more than $12 million for the quarter, from $100.8 million in 2011 to $88.4 million for the first quarter of 2012.

Elma, which has seen an increase in building activity with the new Mark Reed Hospital campus currently under construction, showed the biggest increase locally, with taxable sales going from $10.4 million in the first quarter last year to $12.9 million this year, up 23.7 percent.

Taxable retail sales in Hoquiam were up just more than 13 percent, from $13.3 million in 2011 to $15 million in 2012. Montesano also saw a 9.7 percent increase (from $9.5 million in 2011 to $10.4 million in 2012). Westport and Cosmopolis also showed modest gains with 2.3 percent and .91 percent respectively.

In Ocean Shores, taxable sales fell from $14.1 million in 2011 to $13.4 million through the first quarter of 2012, down 4.68 percent.

The numbers show that the large drop in total taxable sales in Aberdeen is largely due to a significant drop in new construction and construction-related sales, said Mike Gowrylow, Department of Revenue spokesman.

The construction-related figures for Aberdeen fell 54 percent (from $24. 2 million to $11.1 million) between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2010, he said. The large increase in 2011 includes several major construction projects at the Port of Grays Harbor and the start of construction at the Aberdeen site building the pontoons for the State Route 520 bridge replacement project.

In 2009, first quarter construction-related taxable retail sales for Aberdeen were $7.6 million, and fell to $7 million in 2010. So Gowrylow notes that overall taxable retail sales “are still up significantly from 2010 but below the big uptick in 2011.”

Retail trade overall statewide increased 4.2 percent to $11.1 billion over the first quarter of 2011, according to the Department of Revenue report. Retail trade is a subset of all taxable retail sales that includes retailers but excludes other industries such as services and construction.

Some bright news for the local economy is that taxable retail sales receipts from forestry, fishing and agriculture increased just more than 35 percent, from $19.7 million in the first quarter of 2011 to $26.7 million in the first quarter of 2012. It was the biggest increase recorded for any of the other industries.

Among other major industries, construction was up 8 percent statewide to $3.4 billion, accommodations and food services increased 6.6 percent to $2.8 billion, motor vehicles and parts rose 9.7 percent to $2.6 billion, and general merchandise stores were up 1.9 percent to $2.2 billion.