Whatcom County set retail sales record in third quarter 2014

Prior to the Canadian dollar’s recent plunge, retail sales in Whatcom County were steadily increasing, according to a new state report.

Whatcom County tallied $939.3 million in taxable retail sales in the third quarter of 2014, setting a quarterly record for this area, according to data from the Washington State Department of Revenue. That’s up from $915.3 million for the same period in 2013, which was the previous record.

The 2.6 percent increase was well behind the state average, however. During the third quarter, retail sales across the state increased 7.3 percent compared to the previous year.

Between July and September the Canadian dollar was relatively strong, ranging from 89 cents to 94 cents compared to the U.S. dollar. The loonie weakened considerably in the first quarter of 2015 and currently sits around 80 cents compared to the U.S. dollar. Retail sales numbers for the fourth quarter are expected to be released this spring.

Despite the strong Canadian dollar in the third quarter, sales in Whatcom’s big-box store category continued to weaken. That category totaled $110.3 million in that quarter, down 1.9 percent compared to a year earlier.

The online and mail-order category continued to climb, rising 13.2 percent to $23 million in the third quarter. Other categories posting solid increases locally include motor vehicles and parts (up 6.5 percent compared to a year earlier) and electronics/appliances (up 5.5 percent).

While Bellingham posted sales numbers that matched Whatcom’s average, several communities posted strong increases, including Nooksack (up 14.9 percent compared to a year earlier), Ferndale (up 8.3 percent) and Lynden (up 6.6 percent).

In Skagit County, retail sales rose 1 percent in the third quarter to $637.9 million. King County jumped 7.9 percent, to $13.1 billion.

Here's a look at the trends: