Whatcom County retail sales slowed in the first three months of 2014, with a sluggish economy, a weaker Canadian dollar and the weather likely factors.
Overall sales in Whatcom County totaled $754.9 million in the first quarter, down less than 1 percent compared to the same period in 2013, according to a new report from the Washington State Department of Revenue. Retail trade, which focuses on items sold in stores, totaled $364.6 million in the first quarter, down 2.4 percent compared to a year earlier.
During that three-month period the Canadian dollar dropped significantly, from 94 cents compared to the U.S. dollar to 88 cents. While that probably played a small role in Whatcom retail sales, a bigger factor likely was the overall economy not doing as well, said Hart Hodges, director at Western Washington University's Center for Economic and Business Research. Weather also may have been a factor, with a couple February weekends having snow or ice on local roads.
As a group, big-box stores posted a significant slowdown. The general merchandise store category totaled $86.4 million in the first quarter, down 12.1 percent compared to a year earlier. Sales of clothing were down 15.9 percent for the same period.
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Whatcom County had some growth in certain categories. New and used car dealers posted strong growth, rising 11.7 percent. E-commerce also did well, posting a 12.2 percent year-over-year increase.
Hodges expects that the second-quarter numbers bounce back a bit but not enough to make it a strong first half of the year.
Washington state posted a 4.9 percent rise in overall retail sales, led by strong growth in King County, which posted a 6.6 percent increase.
Skagit County was up 2.2 percent, to $517.8 million in overall sales.
RETAIL SALES BY COMMUNITY
A look at how selected communities fared in overall retail sales and retail trade in the first quarter of 2014, and the percent change from the first quarter of 2013:
|Community||Retail sales||Change||Retail trade||Change|
|Whatcom County||$754.9 M||Down 0.3%||$364.6 M||Down 2.4%|
|Bellingham||$495.3 M||Down 1.3%||$275.3 M||Down 3.5%|
|Blaine||$29.9 M||Up 4.4%||$12 M||Down 4.1%|
|Everson||$5.3 M||Up 8%||$1.8 M||Up 4.1%|
|Ferndale||$41.6 M||Up 11.2%||$14.3 M||Up 0.1%|
|Lynden||$46.7 M||Up 2.9%||$19 M||Down 1.4%|
|Nooksack||$1.8 M||Up 11.7%||$842,694||Up 6.1%|
|Sumas||$5.9 M||Up 5.7%||$3.3 M||Down 3.2%|
|Unincorporated||$128.5 M||Down 2.4%||$38 M||up 4.6%|