Whatcom County retailers posted a slight increase in sales over the spring, but that was well below the state average.
Taxable retail sales locally totaled $874.6 million in the second quarter, up 2.5 percent compared to a year ago, according to newly released data from the Washington State Department of Revenue. Local retail trade, which focuses on sales in stores, rose 1.5 percent.
Retail sales increased 6.8 percent statewide, while retail trade rose 5.4 percent.
Sales at big box stores remained sluggish in Whatcom County. According to the data, stores in the general merchandise category sold $97.3 million, down 3.7 percent compared to a year earlier. It’s the fourth consecutive quarter that year-over-year sales were down in local big-box stores.
Canadians are a factor in Whatcom County sales at big-box stores. During the second quarter, the Canadian dollar was around 92 cents compared to the U.S. dollar. Currently the loonie is around 88 cents compared to the U.S. dollar.
In talking about previous year-over-year declines, including a 12.1 percent drop in the general merchandise category in the first quarter of 2014, Hart Hodges said a likely big factor was the overall economy not doing as well. Hodges is the director at Western Washington University’s Center for Economic and Business Research. A weakening Canadian dollar was a smaller factor, he said.
Whatcom County did post some steady increases in other categories, including e-commerce/mail orders (up 18.2 percent compared to last year), furniture (up 12 percent), electronics (up 10.6 percent), sporting goods (up 8.1 percent) and motor vehicles and parts (up 5.1 percent).
Skagit County posted a 2.6 percent increase in taxable retail sales, while Snohomish County was up 5.9 percent.
Across the state, e-commerce posted a 20.8 percent increase, while building materials rose 7.5 percent.
RETAIL SALES BY COMMUNITY
|Community||Retail sales, percentage change from a year ago||Retail trade, percentage change from a year ago|
|Bellingham||$565.8 million, up 1.3||$317.2 million, down 0.35|
|Blaine||$36.1 million, up 7.6||$15 million, up 10.2|
|Everson||$5.8 million, up 4.6||$2 million, up 0.54|
|Ferndale||$48.1 million, up 15.1||$16.7 million, up 3.5|
|Lynden||$58.6 million, up 7.4||$24.4 million, up 5.9|
|Nooksack||$2.3 million, up 15.6||$1.1 million, up 14.2|
|Sumas||$7.3 million, up 19.2||$3.7 million, up 1.2|
|Unincorporated Whatcom||$150.6 million, up 10.2||$42.6 million, up 10|
|Total Whatcom County||$874.6 million, up 2.5||$422.7 million, up 1.5|
SOURCE: Washington State Department of Revenue