This year is off to a quiet start for Whatcom County in terms of retail news, which can be considered a good thing.
January and February are typically when major retailers announce store closures. It's a strategically convenient time because it is after the holiday shopping season and, typically, when property leases are expiring.
Aside from the Sears at Bellis Fair, which was announced last fall and officially closed Sunday, Jan. 27, there hasn't been a major retail store closure in Whatcom County in the first few weeks of 2013. With the Sears closure, remodeling work is expected to begin soon as Sports Authority prepares to move into that spot later this year.
Once past the start-of-the-year, business-closure announcements, the next step is usually a mini start-up phase. That's when retailers announce plans to open locally, trying to be open before summer (if it has a tourism focus) or to be established before back-to-school and holiday events begin.
A trend that has carried over from the second half of 2012 is the acquisition of distressed property in the Blaine and Birch Bay area.
The most recent was the purchase of the Horizon at Semiahmoo property. Once envisioned as a 650-home subdivision, it was sold by Union Bank to North American CC Chang Jiang Investment LLP for $5.88 million. Mike Kent of Windermere Real Estate estimates that more than 1,200 acres of commercial and residential property has been sold in the past 15 months within a five-mile radius of the Horizon project for more than $35 million. The properties include the Marin condominiums, Birch Bay Waterslides, Sea Links Golf Course and Birch Bay Square. Many of the projects were purchased by Canadian investors.
Summary of year-end local economic data:
Last year, real estate agents sold 2,077 single-family homes in Whatcom County, up 12.8 percent in the past year and the highest annual total since 2007, according to a new report from Lylene Johnson, a real estate agent at Muljat Group.
Prices for homes sold in 2012 also rose, according to the report. In Whatcom County, the median price was $250,000, up 3.2 percent compared to 2011.
... In 2012, a total of 570,577 people used the Bellingham airport to fly to other destinations, an 11.5 percent increase over 2011, according to airline data collected by the Port of Bellingham.
... Last year, 620 Whatcom County bankruptcies were filed, according to data from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Western District in Seattle. That's down 16.6 percent from the previous year and is the lowest annual total since 2008. The peak year during this economic downturn came in 2010, when 808 local bankruptcies were filed.
... RealtyTrac, an online database of foreclosure properties, reports that 546 foreclosure filings were sent out to Whatcom County households in 2012, down from 559 in 2011. Nearly half of those 2012 filings - 242 - came during the last three months of the year.
... Last year, Whatcom County car dealers sold 3,657 new cars, a 16.5 percent increase compared to 2011, according to the Dominion Cross-Sell Report, which relies on data from the Washington State Department of Licensing.
... A total of 15.4 million people crossed the border southbound into Whatcom County in 2012, an 8.5 percent increase over 2011. It's the highest annual total since 1997, when 18.3 million came into Whatcom County, according to data collected by Western Washington University's Center for Economics and Business Research.
BY THE NUMBERS
Whatcom County quarterly retail sales
Q3 2012: $860.9 million
Q2 2012: $792.1 million
Q3 2011: $797.7 million
Quarterly change: up 8.7 percent
Year-over-year change: up 7.9 percent
Six-year quarterly high: $873.4 million, fourth quarter, 2007
Six -year quarterly low: $624.4 million, first quarter 2009
Whatcom County bankruptcies
December 2012: 43
November 2012: 38
December 2011: 54
Monthly change: up 13.2 percent
Year-over-year change: down 20.4 percent
Six -year monthly high: 83, February 2010
Six -year monthly low: 11, February 2006
Whatcom County auto sales
December 2012: 276
November 2012: 265
December 2011: 314
Monthly change: up 4.2 percent
Year-over-year change: down 12.1 percent
Six-year monthly high: 553, May 2006
Six-year monthly low: 140, December 2008
Whatcom County residential sales
January 2013: 142
December 2012: 197
January 2012: 118
Monthly change: down 27.9 percent
Year-over-year change: up 20.3 percent
Six -year monthly high: 398, August 2007
Six-year monthly low: 104, February 2009
Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values
December 2012: $3.7 million
November 2012: $3.6 million
December 2011: $2.9 million
Monthly change: up 2.8 percent
Year-over-year change: up 27.6 percent
Five-year monthly high: $65.3 million, July 2011
Five-year monthly low: $2.6 million, January 2012
Whatcom County foreclosures
December 2012: 79
November 2012: 91
December 2011: 24
Monthly change: down 13.2 percent
Year-over-year change: up 229.2 percent
Six -year monthly high: 153, April 2009
Six-year monthly low: 17, September 2007
Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County
January 2013: $235,000
December 2012: $255,000
January 2012: $220,500
Monthly change: down 7.8 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
January 2013: 288
December 2012: 160
January 2012: 241
Monthly change: up 80 percent
Year-over-year change: up 19.5 percent
Six-year monthly high: 707, May 2007
Six-year monthly low: 131, December 2011
Bellingham airport traffic
December 2012: 48,486
November 2012: 45,811
December 2011: 42,256
Monthly change: up 5.8 percent
Year-over-year change: up 14.7 percent.
Six-year monthly high: 55,407, July 2012
Six-year monthly low: 12,597, September 2010
End of January 2013: $1
End of December 2012: $1.01
End of January 2012: $1
Six-year high: $1.07, November 2007
Six-year low: 77 cents, March 2009
Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County
December 2012: 1,290,481
November 2012: 1,175,351
December 2011: 1,228,747
Monthly change: up 9.8 percent
Year-over-year change: up 5 percent
Five-year monthly high: 1,676,071 August 2012
Five-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006
Bellingham building permit values
December 2012: $4.6 million
November 2012: $4.7 million
December 2011: $9.5 million
Monthly change: down 2.1 percent
Year-over-year change: down 51.6 percent
Six-year monthly high: $47.3 million, December 2009
Six-year monthly low: $1.1 million, November 2008
Ferndale building permit values
January 2013: $2.5 million
December 2012: $2.5 million
January 2012: $0.6 million
Monthly change: no change
Year-over-year change: up 317 percent
Five-year monthly high: $12.9 million, July 2007
Five-year monthly low: $0.2 million, January 2009
Whatcom County construction jobs
December 2012: 6,200
November 2012: 6,300
December 2011: 5,400
Monthly change: down 1.6 percent
Year-over-year change: up 10.5 percent
Six-year monthly high: 8,600, September 2006
Six-year monthly low: 5,000, December 2010
Whatcom County unemployment
Whatcom December 2012: 6.9 percent
Whatcom November 2012: 6.5 percent
Whatcom December 2011: 7.9 percent
State December 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 7.6 percent
Nation December 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 7.8 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 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.