Whatcom County retail sales slowed at the end of 2013


Beginning of holiday shopping season

Michael Reimer, from Langley, B.C., purchases a new laptop bundle from James Collins, Consolation Agent at Best Buy for the beginning of the holiday shopping season, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013 in Bellingham.


The holiday shopping season turned out to be a sluggish one for Whatcom County retailers.

Local retailers tallied $907.9 million in overall retail sales in the final three months of 2013, according to new data released by the Washington Department of Revenue. That's up 1.8 percent compared to a year earlier, but down 0.8 percent compared to the third quarter.

In the previous four quarters before the end of 2013, Whatcom County was posting 5 to 7 percent year-over-year growth in overall retail sales.

Retail trade, which focuses on sales that took place inside stores, totaled $467.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, up 1.4 percent compared to a year earlier.

The state experienced more growth in fourth-quarter shopping. Overall retail sales were up 5.8 percent in Washington compared to a year earlier, while retail trade was up 4.9 percent for the same period.

Statewide, online shopping jumped 19.7 percent, while new and used car sales rose 11.4 percent.

It appears a slowdown in Canadian shopping was a factor in the slower-than-usual sales in Whatcom County. The big-box retail category, which is typically dominated by Canadian shoppers, posted $126.4 million in sales in the fourth quarter of 2013, down 4.5 percent compared to a year earlier. During the fourth quarter the Canadian dollar remained relatively strong, hovering between 94 and 97 cents compared to the U.S. dollar. The loonie is currently around 91 cents compared to the U.S. dollar.

Retail trade was down in the border community of Blaine but up in Sumas and Lynden.

The one category that posted significant growth in Whatcom County was online shopping. In the final three months of 2013 this area tallied $30.5 million in online sales, up 18.7 percent compared to a year earlier.

Other categories that posted annual increases include new and used car sales (up 13 percent), electronics/appliances (up 4.4 percent) and garden supplies (up 28.9 percent). With a new hotel coming online in the fourth quarter, sales related to hotels were up 26 percent.

A look at how selected communities fared in overall retail sales and retail trade in the fourth quarter of 2013, and the percent change from the fourth quarter of 2012:

Community Retail sales  Chg Retail trade  Chg
 Whatcom County  $907.9 M  +1.8%  $467.1 M  +1.4%
 Bellingham  $604.1 M  +1.8%  $357.3 M  -0.5%
 Blaine  $37.1 M  +1.7%  $16 M  -0.2%
 Everson  $6 M  +13.1%  $2.3 M  +8.8%
Ferndale  $45.2 M  +2.8%  $17.2 M  -8.3%
Lynden  $53.5 M  +6.1%  $23.6 M  +7%
Nooksack  $1.9 M  +12.4%  $908,752  +9.7%
Sumas  $7.3 M  -4%  $4.6 M  +7.3%
Unincorporated  $152.9 M  +0.3%  $45.2 M  +20.5%

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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