Local

Car, boat sales help boost summer retail spending

Salesman Richard Brunell takes the protective plastic off a 2016 Toyota Tacoma, Nov. 9, 2015, that just arrived at Wilson Motors in Bellingham. Whatcom County new and used car sales in the third quarter of 2016 were up 13.9 percent compared to a year earlier.
Salesman Richard Brunell takes the protective plastic off a 2016 Toyota Tacoma, Nov. 9, 2015, that just arrived at Wilson Motors in Bellingham. Whatcom County new and used car sales in the third quarter of 2016 were up 13.9 percent compared to a year earlier. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Despite the weak Canadian dollar, Whatcom County posted a solid increase in retail sales last summer.

Whatcom County retailers rang up $1.03 billion in taxable retail sales in the third quarter, according to the Washington Department of Revenue. It’s the first time Whatcom County has posted more than $1 billion in sales in one quarter. It was also a 3.7 percent increase compared to a year earlier. Retail trade, which focuses on sales in stores by consumers, was up 6.4 percent year-over-year.

Increases came in categories that would suggest purchases made by local residents: Recreation vehicles, boats and motorcycle sales were up a whopping 51 percent in the third quarter compared to a year ago. New and used car sales were up 13.9 percent while building materials were up 10.1 percent.

Even the big box store category posted a slight year-over-year increase in sales for the quarter. That category has seen steady declines in the past few years as the Canadian dollar weakened against the U.S. dollar in early 2015. The third quarter was a period that saw a slight bounce back from Canadian cross-border traffic: Nearly 3.9 million people crossed the border southbound into Whatcom County, a few thousand more than in the third quarter of 2015.

Restaurants continued to have strong sales growth, posting $92.2 million in sales during the third quarter. That surpassed the big box stores, which tallied $91.3 million in sales.

In Bellingham, retail sales tax receipts were strong in the fourth quarter, said Brian Henshaw, the city’s finance director. He noted that construction spending and car sales were particularly strong in Bellingham.

“Both of these (construction and auto sales) tend to be more volatile and depend upon the overall economy,” Henshaw said. “Local car purchases are trending in tandem with the national trend.”

It appears that so far, at least, local consumers and business spending is offsetting the weaker loonie, which was been hovering around 76 cents compared to the U.S. dollar last week.

OTHER TIDBITS

A state liquor license application was submitted for Dumpling King at 1204 Cornwall Ave. The applicants are Sigeng Chen and Fei Sun. ... Zane Burger announced it will be open on Sundays starting Feb. 12. Hours for the Fairhaven eatery at 1315 12th St. will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. ... A restaurant liquor license application was also submitted for Thousand Pennies, which is going into 113 E. Magnolia St., near Rite-Aid. The applicant is Yoon Suk Oh. ... With its stores closing, Wet Seal is having inventory sales at its remaining stores, including at Bellis Fair. Items will be marked down 40-60 percent, according to a news release. ... Boundary Bay Brewery released its Irish-Style Red seasonal brew earlier this month. The beer is made with the March 11 Bellingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade in mind, according to a news release.

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