Market Report: Several longtime Bellingham businesses closed in May


May was a month of transition for some longtime Bellingham businesses.

Griggs Office Supply, Shrimp Shack, Billy McHale's and Trek Video were among the longtime companies that announced going-out-of-business sales last month, along with other popular favorites such as Little Tiger Toys and Dashi Noodle Bar.

So far in 2014 Whatcom County business closures are about on track with previous years. It's a little unusual to see a stretch of well-known businesses close in late spring.

This area has also had a stretch of openings, including a couple breweries and the H&M clothing store at Bellis Fair.

In recent years the pace of local business closures tends to slow down in the summer months and heading into back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons.

Significant local business events that took place in May and early June:

Whatcom County's unemployment rate dropped below 6 percent for the first time in more than five years.

The local rate in April was 5.8 percent, the lowest since November 2008, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department.

Other notable numbers:

-- Whatcom County residential sales picked up in May, but are still off last year's pace. Last month local real estate agents sold 260 single-family homes and condominiums locally, up 37 percent compared to April. While up compared to April, Whatcom residential sales were down 6.8 percent compared to May 2013.

-- Earlier this month Northwest Sky Ferry and San Juan Airlines merged, which will mean an expanded flight scheduled for this region. The new company will keep the San Juan Airlines name, offering daily scheduled flights to the islands, Point Roberts, Seattle, Port Angeles and British Columbia. It will have five Cessna planes in service, said co-owner Katie Jansen.

-- A Ferndale butane/propane export terminal that has remained under the radar for decades was purchased for $242 million, an indication of significant changes taking place in global energy markets. Petrogas Energy Corp. closed a deal to purchase the storage and distribution facility at the end of Unick Road from Chevron. According to documents filed at the Whatcom County Treasurer's Office, the $242 million sale for about 42 acres of property equates to slightly more than $4.1 million in local and state excise taxes. It is one of the largest taxable transactions ever filed in this area, said Whatcom County Treasurer Steve Oliver.

Market Report runs each month.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q4 2013: $907.9 million

Q3 2013: $915.3 million

Q4 2012: $891.5 million

Quarterly change: down 0.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1.8 percent

Seven-year quarterly high: $915.3 million, third quarter 2013

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

April 2014: 52

March 2014: 51

April 2013: 67

Monthly change: up 2 percent

Year-over-year change: down 22.4 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Eight-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County new auto sales

April 2014: 366

March 2014: 302

April 2013: 273

Monthly change: up 21.2 percent

Year-over-year change: up 34.1 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Eight-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

May 2014: 260

April 2014: 190

May 2013: 279

Monthly change: up 36.8 percent

Year-over-year change: down 6.8 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Eight-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

April 2014: $17 million

March 2014: $13.9 million

April 2013: $11.9 million

Monthly change: up 22.3 percent

Year-over-year change: up 42.9 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

May 2014: 29

April 2014: 33

May 2013: 45

Monthly change: down 12.1 percent

Year-over-year change: down 35.6 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Eight-year monthly low: 8, March 2014

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

May 2014: $260,500

April 2014: $254,000

May 2013: $250,000

Monthly change: up 2.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 4.2 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

May 2014: 587

April 2014: 525

May 2013: 552

Monthly change: up 11.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 6.3 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Eight-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

April 2014: 46,882

March 2014: 60,543

April 2013: 52,307

Monthly change: down 22.6 percent

Year-over-year change: down 10.4 percent.

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

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

Canadian dollar

End of May 2014: 92 cents

End of April 2014: 91 cents

End of May 2013: 97 cents

Eight-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Eight-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

April 2014: 1,298,730

March 2014: 1,288,106

April 2013: 1,235,033

Monthly change: down less than 1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5.2 percent

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

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

Bellingham building permit values

May 2014: $28.7 million

April 2014: $9.1 million

May 2013: $9.6 million

Monthly change: up 215 percent

Year-over-year change: up 199 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

April 2014: $0.9 million

March 2014: $1.3 million

April 2013: $10 million

Monthly change: down 30.8 percent

Year-over-year change: down 91 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

April 2014: 5,800

March 2014 (revised): 6,100

April 2013 (revised): 5,500

Monthly change: down 4.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5.5 percent

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

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

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom April 2014: 5.8 percent

Whatcom March 2014 (revised): 7 percent

Whatcom April 2013 (revised): 6.8 percent

Whatcom March 2013: 7.5 percent

State April 2014 (seasonably adjusted): 6.1 percent

Nation April 2014 (seasonably adjusted): 6.3 percent.

Eight-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Eight-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.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or Read the Business Blog at or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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