Market Report: Good year for berries; retailers begin end-of-year push


Fall is the stretch run for companies trying to post solid 2013 annual sales numbers, and it should be especially busy in Whatcom County.

Along with the end of back-to-school sales, retailers are already gearing up for the holiday shopping season. Whatcom County also has the added influx of Western Washington University students who start arriving in late September. With the Canadian dollar remaining strong, we should also expect the continued influx of British Columbia shoppers.

While shopping will be on the upswing, other aspects of the economy will start winding down, including agriculture and construction. Official numbers haven't been announced yet, but it appears to have been a good year for berry farmers, who took advantage of a mild, sunny summer to extend the harvest season.

Construction will also wrap up on several projects in the coming weeks, including road work and two new hotels in north Bellingham.

Significant local business events that took place in August and early September:

• Two major grocery stores - the Cost Cutter on Meridian Street and the one in Sunset Square - will close later this year. The 73,000-square-foot store at 4131 Meridian St. will close to make way for a new, undisclosed tenant. While the 67,000-square-foot Sunset Square store also will close, Safeway Inc. will acquire the pharmacy portion of the store and keep it open.

• The number of Canadian shoppers venturing into Skagit and Snohomish county stores plummeted after the Skagit River Bridge collapse. The change was striking. The Marysville Costco, for example, had an 80 percent decrease in the proportion of Canadian license plates observed in its parking lot in June compared to a survey done in March, before the collapse. Surprisingly, that didn't result in more Canadians packing the Bellingham Costco. The numbers come from a new study from Western Washington University. The Border Policy Research Institute released its initial results studying the travel habits of Canadians between the U.S. border crossing south on Interstate 5 to Marysville in March and again in June.

• Both WinCo and Semiahmoo Resort opened for business on Thursday, Aug. 15.

Market Report runs each month.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q1 2013: $757.1 million

Q4 2012: $891.5 million

Q1 2012: $716.1 million

Quarterly change: down 15.1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5.7 percent

Seven-year quarterly high: $891.5 million, fourth quarter, 2007

Seven-year quarterly low: $624.4 million, first quarter 2009

Whatcom County bankruptcies

July 2013: 46

June 2013: 39

July 2012: 47

Monthly change: up 17.9 percent

Year-over-year change: down 2.1 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Seven-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County new auto sales

July 2013: 406

June 2013: 318

July 2012: 263

Monthly change: up 27.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 54.4 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Seven-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

July 2013: 323

June 2013: 275

July 2012: 224

Monthly change: up 17.5 percent

Year-over-year change: up 44.2 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Seven-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

July 2013: $12.8 million

June 2013: $16.3 million

July 2012: $6.7 million

Monthly change: down 21.5 percent

Year-over-year change: up 91 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

July 2013: 29

June 2013: 25

July 2012: 45

Monthly change: up 16 percent

Year-over-year change: down 35.6 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Seven-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

July 2013: $252,000

June 2013: $248,000

July 2012: $254,800

Monthly change: up 1.6 percent

Year-over-year change: down 1.1 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

July 2013: 511

June 2013: 487

July 2012: 399

Monthly change: up 4.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 28.1 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Seven-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

July 2013: 56,992

June 2013: 52,884

July 2012: 55,407

Monthly change: up 7.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 2.9 percent.

Seven-year monthly high: 61,402, March 2013

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

Canadian dollar

End of August 2013: 95 cents

End of July 2013: 98 cents

End of August 2012: 95 cents

Seven-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Seven-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

July 2013: 1,640,597

June 2013: 1,421,928

July 2012: 1,542,265

Monthly change: up 15.4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 6.4 percent

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

Seven-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

July 2013: $8.8 million

June 2013: $16.4 million

July 2012: $44.8 million

Monthly change: down 46.3 percent

Year-over-year change: down 80.4 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

July 2013: $6.9 million

June 2013: $3.7 million

July 2012: $2.7 million

Monthly change: up 86.5 percent

Year-over-year change: up 156 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

July 2013: 6,200

June 2013 (revised): 6,100

July 2012: 5,900

Monthly change: up 1.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5.1 percent

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

Seven-year monthly low: 4,900, January 2013

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom July 2013: 7.3

Whatcom June 2013 (revised): 7.3 percent

Whatcom July 2012: 7.7

State July 2013 (seasonably adjusted): 6.9 percent

Nation July 2013 (seasonably adjusted): 7.4 percent.

Seven-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Seven-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 Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or Read his Business Blog at or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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