Market Report: As holiday shopping concludes, changes in Whatcom retail the next trend


Beginning of holiday shopping season

Shoppers look for the best deals at the beginning of holiday shopping season, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, at Best Buy in Bellingham.


Now is the time of year when Whatcom County retailers have some key decisions to make.

With under three weeks left in the holiday shopping season, retailers must make decisions about 2014 and whether to remain open, move or close.

There are a few reasons why the end of December and early January tends to be a month of significant change, whether it's business closings or openings. For those who want to close, January is typically the slowest month of the year, so there's little incentive to push through the slow period if the business is on the edge of being profitable.

It's also a time when many leases are up for renewal. For businesses wanting to open, now is a good time to get started on remodeling a space to be ready for spring, which is when retail sales start to rebound.

A few retailers have already announced quitting-business sales locally. In January 2013 the number of first-month closures was relatively low compared to recent years; we'll see if that continues as the economy continues to recover.

Significant local business events that took place in November and early December:

-- A downtown Lynden landmark is once again under local ownership and they have big plans to make that portion of downtown vibrant again. Lynden Floor owner Greg Neufeldt purchased the Dutch Village Mall at 655 Front St. for $1.055 million.

-- The showing of second-run movies at Bellis Fair will end as the mall makes plans to bring in new tenants. General Growth Properties submitted a tenant improvement application to the city to demolish the movie theater at Bellis Fair and put in three retail tenant spaces.

-- An early kickoff to the holiday shopping season didn't slow down local shoppers looking for deals. Whatcom County and Canadian shoppers swarmed the Cordata area in the evening hours of Thanksgiving, particularly around the big box stores and Bellis Fair mall in a sales event that featured staggered openings. During the 6 p.m. openings, the Bellingham Walmart was particularly busy, with a line that extended around the back of the building and continued to wrap around in an S formation.

-- The Sportsman Chalet at Sunnyland Square in Bellingham has begun a liquidation sale and will be closing soon, ending a 41-year run.

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

October 2013: 54

September 2013: 45

October 2012: 50

Monthly change: up 20 percent

Year-over-year change: up 8 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Seven-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County new auto sales

October 2013: 364

September 2013: 335

October: 369

Monthly change: up 8.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1.4 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Seven-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

November 2013: 199

October 2013: 280

November 2012: 192

Monthly change: down 28.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 3.6 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Seven-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

November 2013: $6.1 million

October 2013: $7.9 million

November 2012: $3.6 million

Monthly change: down 22.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 69.4 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

October 2013: 20

September 2013: 27

October 2012: 61

Monthly change: down 25.9 percent

Year-over-year change: down 205 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Seven-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

November 2013: $260,000

October 2013: $249,000

November 2012: $238,950

Monthly change: up 4.4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 8.8 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

November 2013: 200

October 2013: 272

November 2012: 208

Monthly change: down 26.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 3.8 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Seven-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

October 2013: 42,533

September 2013: 41,959

October 2012: 44,549

Monthly change: up 1.4 percent

Year-over-year change: down 4.5 percent.

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

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

Canadian dollar

End of November 2013: 94 cents

End of October 2013: 96 cents

End of November 2012: $1.01

Seven-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Seven-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

October 2013: 1,282,346

September 2013: 1,331,314

October 2012: 1,181,225

Monthly change: down 3.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 8.6 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 1,786,840, August 2013

Seven-year monthly low: 645,792, October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

November 2013: $3.7 million

October 2013: $13.9 million

November 2012: $4.7 million

Monthly change: down 73.4 percent

Year-over-year change: down 21.3 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

November 2013: $2.7 million

October 2013: $3.5 million

November 2012: $4.4 million

Monthly change: down 22.9 percent

Year-over-year change: down 38.6 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

October 2013: 6,100

September 2013: 5,700

October 2012: 6,000

Monthly change: up 7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1.7 percent

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

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

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom October 2013: 6.1 percent

Whatcom September 2013: 6 percent

Whatcom October 2012: 6.5 percent

State October 2013 (seasonably adjusted): 7 percent

Nation October 2013 (seasonably adjusted): 7.3 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; City of Ferndale; Washington State Employment Security Department.

Market Report runs each month.

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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