Higher car sales drove higher retail trade numbers during the third quarter of 2008 in Benton County, where retail trade was up 7.9 percent quarter-over-quarter when compared with 2007. But a car dealership that moved from Pasco to Kennewick during 2008 is likely the reason for the Benton County spike and for the fall in Franklin County, where retail trade was down 3.9 percent.
Overall taxable retail sales, which include retail trade, construction, wholesale trade, manufacturing and other services were up 2.7 percent in Benton County and equally down by 2.7 percent in Franklin County. Statewide, taxable retail sales dropped 4.2 percent to $29.8 billion during the third quarter, according to the Washington State Department of Revenue. Retail trade was down 6.3 percent to $12.4 billion.
Retail trade is a part of all taxable retail sales that excludes construction, services and other non-retail businesses and is a more accurate measure of consumer purchases. The Washington Department of Revenue hasn’t released its fourth quarter statistics yet, but Kim Harvey, marketing manager at Columbia Center, said mall retailers would have posted annual increases if it hadn’t been for inclement weather during December, which kept many shoppers at home. Shoppers from outlying areas, like, Yakima, Walla Walla and Oregon, didn’t come here to shop,” said Harvey, during TRIDEC’s annual regional Economic Outlook at TRAC in January.
Furniture and home furnishing stores were among the hardest hit during the third quarter in both Benton and Franklin Counties. Sales of furniture in Benton County dropped by more than 10 percent quarter-over-quarter. In Franklin County furniture sales were down nearly 30 percent in the third quarter.
Franklin County did experience a nearly 40 percent spike in retail sales at drug stores, likely because of the addition of two new Walgreens stores open in 2008. Richland saw a decrease of nearly 19 percent in drug store sales during the same quarter, but apparel sales were up more than 200 percent. The new Kohl’s department store likely contributed to that dramatic spike.
Retail sales at area hotels and restaurants saw small increases throughout the cities and counties during the third quarter, which goes from July 1 through September 30th. In Benton County $11.8 million was spent on accommodations, a 4.7 percent increase over the third quarter of 2007. In Franklin County taxable retail sales for accommodations was up more than 8 percent to $4.1 million.
Taxable retail sales in Benton County restaurants and bars reached $53.4 million in the third quarter, a 3 percent increase over the previous year. And in Franklin County, there was nearly a 5 percent increase, to $12.3 million. Harvey said she doesn’t think any new big retailers will move into the area in 2009, but she also doesn’t think any large retailers other than Circuit City, which is closing all its stores, will leave.
By Mary Hopkin, Journal of Business