When it comes to shopping in Whatcom County, it appears local residents are spending more at stores.
Overall retail sales hit $860.9 million in Whatcom County during the third quarter of 2012, a 7.9 percent increase compared to the same period in 2011, according to the Washington State Department of Revenue.
Retail trade, which focuses on sales in stores, was at $420.3 million, up 7.2 percent compared to the third quarter of 2011. That's higher than the second quarter year-over-year change, which was 6.7 percent.
Whatcom's rise in retail trade was nearly identical to the state average increase of 7.3 percent, possibly indicating that Whatcom residents were doing more shopping, said Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry. In recent quarters as the Canadian dollar strengthened and border traffic increased, Whatcom's retail trade increased more than the state average.
He also noted that during the third quarter, little change in the Canadian dollar or the regional economy led him to expect a leveling of Canadian shopping in Whatcom County.
"It's an indication to me that more local residents were shopping, which is a good sign for the local economy," he said.
Sales jumped in a variety of areas, including new and used auto sales (up 13.6 percent compared to a year earlier), clothing (up 11.9 percent) big-box stores (up 9.8 percent) and building materials/gardening equipment (up 6.7 percent).
Third-quarter overall retail sales, which includes categories such as construction, manufacturing and restaurants, increased significantly in several Whatcom communities and nearly reached the all-time record, when $873.4 million was spent in the fourth quarter of 2007. Blaine, Everson and Sumas all posted double-digit percentage increases, while Bellingham's total rose 8.9 percent.
Retail sales totals for the fourth-quarter holiday season are typically released in the spring. Oplinger said he expects those numbers to be strong as well.
"What I've heard from retailers is that it (holiday shopping) was good this year," he said.
Oplinger expects to see some significant changes in retail locally in the coming year, with potential growth taking place in downtown Bellingham and the Barkley area. He also thinks General Growth is ready to make some significant investments in Bellis Fair. The mall recently announced that Sports Authority is moving into the space that will soon be vacated by Sears.
"We may see more develop when it comes to retail in 2013," Oplinger said.
A look at how selected communities fared in overall retail sales and retail trade (sales that took place in stores) in the third quarter of 2012, and the percent change from the third quarter of 2011:
|Community||Retail sales||Chg||Retail trade||Chg|
|Whatcom County||$860.9 million||+7.9%||$420.3 million||+7.2%|
|Bellingham||$578.6 million||+8.9%||$327.5 million||+6.9%|
|Blaine||$35.7 million||+17.7%||$12.9 million||+16.8%|
|Everson||$6 million||+16.6%||$2 million||-0.8%|
|Ferndale||$42.5 million||+6.8%||$16.5 million||+12.5%|
|Lynden||$52.3 million||+2.8%||$22.3 million||-2.8%|
|Sumas||$7.1 million||+47 %||$3.4 million||+36.9%|
|Unincorporated||$136.6 million||+2.6 %||$34.8 million||+9%|
|SOURCE: Washington Department of Revenue|