Whatcom County retail sales grew significantly last spring as the strong Canadian dollar continued to be a factor.
Total taxable retail sales totaled $853.2 million in the second quarter of 2013, a 7.7 percent increase compared to a year earlier, according to a new report from the Washington Department of Revenue.
Whatcom's County's increase was close to the state increase, which rose 8.3 percent to about $29 billion for the same period.
Border traffic continued to increase during this period. The number of people traveling southbound through the five Whatcom County border crossings totaled slightly more than 4 million in the second quarter, up 3.5 percent compared to the same period in 2012. During that time the Canadian dollar was at about par with the U.S. dollar.
Retail sales in the general merchandise category, which consists mostly of the big-box stores, totaled $101.1 million in the second quarter, up 1.4 percent compared to the year before.
Bill Gorman, interim executive director at the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said retailers he's talked with indicate sales have remained strong right up to the current holiday shopping season.
Recently the Canadian dollar has weakened to 94 cents compared to the U.S. dollar, but he doesn't expect much change in the shopping habits of Canadians unless the loonie drops below 90 cents.
Overall retail sales were up in all Whatcom County communities. Bellingham had the biggest jump, posting a 9 percent increase and representing about two-thirds of the county sales. Blaine had the second biggest increase, at 8.4 percent.
The automotive sector did particularly well in the second quarter, according to the data. In a category that includes auto sales and parts, Whatcom County retailers tallied $72.6 million in sales for the second quarter, up 14.5 percent compared to the second quarter of 2012. Other sectors posting significant increases include furniture (up 10.6 percent) and clothing (up 8.3 percent).
RETAIL SALES BY COMMUNITY
A look at how selected communities fared in overall retail sales in the second quarter of 2013, and the percent change from the second quarter of 2012:
Whatcom County: $853.2 million, up 7.7 percent.
Bellingham: $573 million, up 9 percent.
Blaine: $33.6 million, up 8.4 percent.
Everson: $5.5 million, up 6.9 percent.
Ferndale: $41.7 million, up 1.4 percent.
Lynden: $54.5 million, up 8.3 percent.
Nooksack: $2 million, up 4.4 percent.
Sumas: $6.1 million, up 4.4 percent.
Unincorporated Whatcom County: $136.6 million, up 4.3 percent.
SOURCE: WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE