Market Report: Holiday shopping, new theater key events in final weeks of 2012


It'll be a busy final few weeks of 2012 for Whatcom County residents.

Along with the typical holiday shopping push and events that take place, Whatcom County residents will have a chance to check out the new Barkley movie theater, slated to kick off with community preview days Dec. 10-12 followed by its grand opening on Friday, Dec. 14. The new 68,000-square-foot theater has 16 screens, including an IMAX.

It appears the first part of the 2013 will mean plenty of changes when it comes to retail. Several longtime businesses have already announced going-out-of-business sales, including Sears, which will be replaced at Bellis Fair mall by Sports Authority.

Other significant events that took place in November/December:

• Whatcom County auto dealers continue to put up strong sales numbers, according to the latest Dominion Cross-Sell report. According to the report, dealers sold 369 new cars in October, the largest monthly total since April 2011.

• Whatcom County home values continued their gradual path to stabilizing during the summer months, according to a new federal report. The Federal Housing Finance Agency estimates that local home values were basically flat in the third quarter, dropping about a quarter of 1 percent in the past year. Between the second and third quarter, home values locally rose 1.5 percent, according to the report.

• Having Black Friday sales start on Thursday evening turned out to be a hit with many local consumers. Thousands of shoppers swarmed the north section of Bellingham soon after Thanksgiving dinner in search of bargains in what appears to be the new kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

• Whatcom County's unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in nearly four years, with the private sector adding 2,400 jobs in the past 12 months. Whatcom's unemployment rate was 6.4 percent in October, down from a revised rate of 6.9 percent in September. It's the lowest monthly rate locally since December 2008.

• Semiahmoo Resort Co. shut down the Semiahmoo Hotel on Saturday, Dec. 1, putting more than 200 people out of work. The company is attempting to sell the facility and is working with interested parties.

• The Port of Bellingham named Rob Fix as its new executive director. Fix had been serving as interim executive director since the April 2012 ouster of Charlie Sheldon.

Market Report runs each month. 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

October 2012: 50

September 2012: 35

October 2011: 62

Monthly change: up 42.9 percent

Year-over-year change: down 19.4 percent

Six -year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Six -year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County auto sales

October 2012: 369

September 2012: 310

October 2011: 299

Monthly change: up 19 percent

Year-over-year change: up 23.4 percent

Six-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Six-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

November 2012: 192

October 2012: 242

November 2011: 176

Monthly change: down 20.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 9.1 percent

Six -year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Six-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

November 2012: $3.6 million

October 2012: $6.1 million

November 2011: $4.1 million

Monthly change: down 64.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 12.9 percent

Five-year monthly high: $65.3 million, July 2011

Five-year monthly low: $2.6 million, January 2012

Whatcom County foreclosures

October 2012: 61

September 2012: 55

October 2011: 56

Monthly change: up 10.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 8.9 percent

Six -year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Six-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

November 2012: $238,950

October 2012: $257,625

November 2011: $208,000

Monthly change: down 7.2 percent

Year-over-year change: up 14.9percent

Six-year monthly high: $280,450, May 2007

Six-year monthly low: $208,000, November 2011

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

November 2012: 208

October 2012: 310

November 2011: 214

Monthly change: down 32.9 percent

Year-over-year change: down 2.8 percent

Six-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Six-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

October 2012: 44,549

September 2012: 40,936

October 2011: 43,943

Monthly change: up 8.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1.4 percent.

Six-year monthly high: 55,407, July 2012

Six-year monthly low: 12,597, September 2010

Canadian dollar

End of November 2012: $1.02

End of October 2012: $1

End of November 2011: 99 cents

Six-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Six-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

October 2012: 1,181,225

September: 2012: 1,322,233

August 2012: 1,676,071

July 2012: 1,543,265

October 2011: 1,159,433

Monthly change: down 10.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1.8 percent

Five-year monthly high: 1,676,071 August 2012

Five-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

November 2012: $4.7 million

October 2012: $12.8 million

November 2011: $3.8 million

Monthly change: down 63.3 percent

Year-over-year change: up 23.7 percent

Six-year monthly high: $47.3 million, December 2009

Six-year monthly low: $1.1 million, November 2008

Ferndale building permit values

November 2012: $4.4 million

October 2012: $4.2 million

November 2011: $1.3 million

Monthly change: up 4.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 238.5 percent

Five-year monthly high: $12.9 million, July 2007

Five-year monthly low: $0.2 million, January 2009

Whatcom County construction jobs

October 2012: 6,500

September 2012 (revised): 6,500

October 2011: 6,300

Monthly change: no change

Year-over-year change: up 3.2 percent

Six-year monthly high: 8,600, September 2006

Six-year monthly low: 5,000, December 2010

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom October 2012: 6.4 percent

Whatcom September 2012 (revised): 6.9 percent

Whatcom October 2011: 8 percent

State October 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 8.2 percent

Nation October 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 7.9 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.

Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at or get updates on Twitter at

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