It turns out 2014 was a sluggish year for Whatcom County retail sales.
Overall local retail sales increased 2.2 percent last year to $3.5 billion, well below the state average increase of 6.6 percent, according to the latest data from the Washington State Department of Revenue. Retail trade, a category that focuses on items sold in stores, rose 0.7 percent in Whatcom County to $1.7 billion.
Across the state, retail trade rose 4.8 percent to $56.3 billion. Bellingham actually posted a slight decrease in retail trade compared to 2013.
This follows a trend similar to fourth quarter sales, which was reported earlier this month.
A drop in cross-border traffic appears to be a big factor for the slowdown. Sales at Whatcom big-box stores, where many cross-border shoppers go, totaled $412.7 million in 2014, down 5.8 percent compared to 2013.
Sales in some categories geared toward local residents were strong: Motor vehicle and parts sales totaled $296 million last year, up 6.6 percent compared to 2013.
The Canadian dollar steadily weakened compared to the U.S. dollar in 2014, dropping from 94 cents in January 2014 to 84 cents in December 2014. In 2013 the Canadian dollar was usually between 95 cents and par compared to the U.S. dollar.
In January 2015 the Canadian dollar quickly dropped from 84 cents to 78 cents. It is currently around 80 cents compared to the U.S. dollar.
One retail sales category that continues to grow substantially is e-commerce. Last year $98.7 million in sales were in that category, up 12.5 percent compared to 2013.
The local restaurant industry posted steady growth. Sales totaled $319.9 million last year, up 3 percent compared to 2013.
In Skagit County overall retail sales rose 2.2 percent to $2.4 billion. Retail trade rose 4 percent to $1.3 billion.More information
RETAIL SALES IN WHATCOM COUNTY
|Community||Retail sales||Retail trade|
|Bellingham||$2.3 billion||+0.9%||$1.3 billion||-0.5%|
|Blaine||$146.6 million||+5.7%||$59.9 million||+5.4%|
|Everson||$23.1 million||+3.5%||$8.1 million||-0.5%|
|Ferndale||$187 million||+9.7%||$66.2 million||+1.2%|
|Lynden||$222.2 million||+6.4%||$93.1 million||+3.9%|
|Nooksack||$8.7 million||+14.4%||$4.1 million||+10.7%|
|Sumas||$28.4 million||+10.1%||$15.5 million||-0.7%|
|Unincorporated||$588.3 million||+2%||$171.8 million||+6.2%|
|Overall||$3.5 billion||+2.2%||$1.7 billion||+0.7%|