Whatcom County retailers continued to see strong sales this past spring, once again outpacing the state average.
Overall retail sales in Whatcom County totaled $792.1 million in the second quarter of 2012, up 6.7 percent compared to the same period last year, according to new data from the Washington Department of Revenue. Retail trade, which focuses on sales that took place in stores, was up 6.7 percent compared to a year earlier.
Across the state, overall retail sales rose 4.7 percent to $26.8 billion, while retail trade rose 5.3 percent.
In Skagit County, overall retail sales totaled $550.7 million, up 5.8 percent year over year.
Continuing to drive the growth locally appears to be the Canadian shopper. The general merchandise category, which is generally the big-box retail stores, posted a 7.8 percent increase in sales, hitting $99.7 million. Also posting a huge increase was the e-commerce/mail order category, which was up 36.5 percent to $15.1 million.
The sales tax is now counted at the destination of the mail order, so places like Blaine and Sumas are seeing significant increases in the retail sales number from Canadians who are placing orders and picking them up at border mail service facilities, said Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
"What is more impressive is the fact the sales numbers are increasing for this long," said Oplinger, noting that the Canadian dollar has remained strong for several years now. "It suggests that more broad-based growth is taking place."
Whatcom County sales were up significantly in a variety of categories, including furniture (up 9.6 percent compared to the same period in 2011), clothing and accessories (up 8.7 percent), restaurants (up 7.7 percent) and auto sales and parts (up 7.5 percent). The only significant decline came in the electronics and appliances category, which was down 14.2 percent.
Oplinger expects the third quarter to have around 6 percent growth for Whatcom County, typically a busy time because of back-to-school shopping. The holiday season will provide an interesting test, he said, because some recent economic data point toward a slight slowing of the British Columbia economy. If the B.C. economy does slow down, he still expects holiday sales growth locally to be in the 4 percent range.
A look at how selected communities fared in overall retail sales and retail trade (sales that took place in stores) in the second quarter of 2012, and the percent change from the second quarter of 2011:
|Community||Retail sales||Chg||Retail trade||Chg|
|Whatcom County||$792.1 million||+6.7%||$391.3 million||+6.7%|
|Bellingham||$525.6 million||+5.4%||$300.6 million||+6.2%|
|Blaine||$31 million||+10.7%||$11.9 million||+15.5%|
|Everson||$5.2 million||+1.5%||$1.9 million||+3.6%|
|Ferndale||$41.2 million||+11%||$16 million||+11.2%|
|Lynden||$50.4 million||+5.4%||$23 million||-0.5%|
|Sumas||$5.9 million||+22.8 %||$3 million||+33.7%|
|Unincorporated||$131 million||+9.7 %||$33.7 million||+9.2%|
|SOURCE: Washington Department of Revenue|
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.