It's final push time for local retailers.
The fourth quarter is typically the busiest three months for Whatcom County store owners; it's also a time when local companies are working to meet year-end goals.
While there appear to be concerns about British Columbia's real estate market slowing down, other economic data indicates Whatcom County retailers will once again see plenty of Canadian shoppers this season. The Canadian dollar continues to hover above parity compared to the U.S. dollar and the province continues to experience job growth.
As for Whatcom County shoppers, it'll be interesting to see what mood they are in. Many local economic indicators show some positive signs: The Whatcom unemployment rate is below the state and national average, building permits have ticked up in several communities and bankruptcies continue to decline. There are still plenty of problems, however, including rising home foreclosure numbers and some significant business closures.
In the past, local retailers have said one typical trend they've noticed is customers putting off some shopping until after the presidential election. With this year's election expected to be a close contest, that uncertainty could remain in play for a few more weeks. After the election is typically the time when national retailers really start pushing holiday sales and highlighting the hot new products for the season.
Other significant events that took place in September/October:
After many months of negotiations, Alcoa has announced a 10-year electric power supply deal with the Bonneville Power Administration that should help maintain 625 jobs at the Alcoa Intalco Works smelter west of Ferndale. The company said it expects the deal to be finalized in early December.
Leaders of the Lummi Nation came out against the coal train export terminal project at Cherry Point. Also, public comments are now being accepted on what should be on the Environmental Impact Statement.
Mt. Baker Harley-Davidson announced it was closing its Bellingham store at the end of October.
Big 5 Sporting Goods opens a second store in the retail center near Walmart on Meridian.
The new 16-screen Barkley movie theater project is nearing completion; it is scheduled to open in early December.
The total number of manufacturing jobs in Whatcom County hit 9,000 in August, the highest monthly total since 2008.
A federal report indicates wages were up 6.6 percent in Whatcom County in the first quarter of 2012 compared to a year earlier. Average weekly wage in Whatcom was $796.
Residential real estate sales were up 16 percent in the months of June, July and August compared to the same period as last year.
BY THE NUMBERS
Whatcom County quarterly retail sales
Q2 2012: $792.1 million
Q1 2012: $716.1 million
Q2 2011: $742.9 million
Quarterly change: up 10.6 percent
Year-over-year change: up 6.7 percent
Six-year quarterly high: $873.4 million, fourth quarter, 2007
Six -year quarterly low: $624.4 million, first quarter 2009
Whatcom County bankruptcies
August 2012: 53
July 2012: 47
August 2011: 61
Monthly change: up 12.8 percent
Year-over-year change: down 13.1 percent
Six -year monthly high: 83, February 2010
Six -year monthly low: 11, February 2006
Whatcom County auto sales
August 2012: 364
July 2012: 263
August 2011: 198
Monthly change: up 38.4 percent
Year-over-year change: up 83.8 percent
Six-year monthly high: 553, May 2006
Six-year monthly low: 140, December 2008
Whatcom County residential sales
September 2012: 216
August 2012: 262
September 2011: 209
Monthly change: down 17.6 percent
Year-over-year change: up 3.3 percent
Six -year monthly high: 398, August 2007
Six-year monthly low: 104, February 2009
Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values
September 2012: $17.2 million
August 2012: $11.1 million
September 2011: $7.3 million
Monthly change: up 35.5 percent
Year-over-year change: up 135.6 percent
Five-year monthly high: $65.3 million, July 2011
Five-year monthly low: $2.6 million, January 2012
Whatcom County foreclosures
September 2012: 55
August 2012: 50
September 2011: 82
Monthly change: up 10 percent
Year-over-year change: down 33 percent
Six -year monthly high: 153, April 2009
Six-year monthly low: 17, September 2007
Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County
September 2012: $239,944
August 2012: $237,250
September 2011: $225,000
Monthly change: up 1.1 percent
Year-over-year change: up 6.6 percent
Six-year monthly high: $280,450, May 2007
Six-year monthly low: $208,000, November 2011
Whatcom homes newly listed for sale
September 2012: 272
August 2012: 414
September 2011: 308
Monthly change: down 34.3 percent
Year-over-year change: down 11.7 percent
Six-year monthly high: 707, May 2007
Six-year monthly low: 131, December 2011
Bellingham airport traffic
August 2012: 53,724
July 2012: 55,407
August 2011: 48,204
Monthly change: down 3 percent
Year-over-year change: up 11.5 percent.
Six-year monthly high: 55,407, July 2012
Six-year monthly low: 12,597, September 2010
End of September 2012: $1.02
End of August 2012: $1.01
End of September 2011: 96 cents
Six-year high: $1.07, November 2007
Six-year low: 77 cents, March 2009
Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County
June 2012: 1,326,464
May 2012: 1,317,092
June 2011: 1,180,623
Monthly change: up less than 1 percent
Year-over-year change: up 12.4 percent
Five-year monthly high: 1,540,776 August 2011
Five-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006
Bellingham building permit values
September 2012: $6.4 million
August 2012: $4.3 million
September 2012: $4.8 million
Monthly change: up 48.8 percent
Year-over-year change: up 33.3 percent
Six-year monthly high: $47.3 million, December 2009
Six-year monthly low: $1.1 million, November 2008
Ferndale building permit values
September 2012: $6.5 million
August 2012: $2.2 million
September 2011: $1.9 million
Monthly change: up 195.4 percent
Year-over-year change: up 242.1 percent
Five-year monthly high: $12.9 million, July 2007
Five-year monthly low: $0.2 million, January 2009
Whatcom County construction jobs
August 2012: 6,500
July 2012: 6,400
August 2011: 5,900
Monthly change: up 1.6 percent
Year-over-year change: up 10.2 percent
Six-year monthly high: 8,600, September 2006
Six-year monthly low: 5,000, December 2010
Whatcom County unemployment
Whatcom August 2012: 7.7 percent
Whatcom July 2012: 7.4 percent (revised)
Whatcom August 2012: 8.3 percent
State August 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 8.6 percent
Nation August 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 8.1 percent.
Six-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010
Six-year monthly low: 3.7 percent, October 2007
Sources: Washington State Department of Revenue; U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Washington; Cross-Sell; Washington State Department of Licensing; Northwest Multiple Listing Service; Whatcom County Planning and Development Services; Bank of Canada; Port of Bellingham; RealtyTrac; Center For Economics and Business Research, Western Washington University; City of Bellingham; Washington State Employment Security Department.
Market Report runs each month.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.