Sales fell in NCW counties, but Grand Coulee up by 25%

WENATCHEE — With their 2008 construction booms echoing only faintly, Douglas and Grant counties showed steep declines in taxable retail sales last year, a new state survey revealed last week.

Douglas County had the state’s sharpest overall drop as taxable sales shrunk 28.7 percent, while Grant County showed the second-highest decline at 21.3 percent. The figures, comparing 2009 to 2008, were compiled by the state Department of Revenue.

Statewide, the decline in the construction industry — a dip of 24.1 percent — helped weigh down overall taxable retail sales from Seattle to Spokane for an 11.2 percent drop. It’s the steepest sales decline for the state since 1974, the year the state began keeping taxable-sales records, said Department of Revenue spokesman Mike Gowrylow.

“Although we’re not exactly sure what was happening in the Great Depression,” said Gowrylow, “2009 had the biggest drop we’ve recorded in more than three decades.”

The statewide decline put taxable retail revenues at just over $100 billion in 2009, down from $113.2 billion in 2008. Last year’s totals are down more than $18 billion from 2007’s sales peak of $118.2 billion.

“And there lies a primary factor in the state’s budgeting crisis,” Gowrylow said.

Chelan County showed an overall decline in taxable sales of 15.2 percent, while Okanogan County registered a drop of 7.3 percent.

Overall taxable retail sales include most service and construction industries along with conventional retail outlets for clothing, food, sporting goods, home improvement materials and other products.

The state also breaks out conventional, main-street taxable sales into its own category. “That may give the average person on the street a better feel for what’s happening in the state economy,” said Gowrylow.

The retail trade component, minus most services and construction trades, dropped 7.2 percent from the year before, the survey stated.

Most industry sectors in the state showed declines from the previous year, the survey noted. New and used auto sales dropped 12.8 percent, home furnishings declined 15.8 percent and building materials was down 13.3 percent.

Smaller, but still significant, declines affected clothing and accessories (down 8.3 percent), books and music (down 5.2 percent) and lodging and restaurants (down 2.7 percent).

Cities and towns across North Central Washington mostly showed flat or reduced taxable retail sales in 2009, but there were some notable exceptions. A few examples, by county:

• Chelan County: Chelan, down 15.5 percent; Entiat, down 31 percent; Leavenworth, down 5.4 percent; Wenatchee, down 16.5 percent. Showing increases: Cashmere, up 2.9 percent.

• Douglas County: Bridgeport, down 5.6 percent; East Wenatchee, down 2.5 percent. Showing increases: Mansfield, up 12.5 percent; Rock Island, up 24.7 percent; Waterville, up 12.8 percent. (Douglas County’s unincorporated areas, where data center construction took place in prior years, showed a 56.3 percent decline.)

• Okanogan County: Brewster, down 9.2 percent; Nespelem, down 15.6 percent; Okanogan, down 9.9 percent; Omak, down 6.2 percent; Oroville, down 10.9 percent; Twisp, down 13 percent; Winthrop, down 5.9 percent. Showing increases: Conconully, up 11 percent; Pateros, up 1.4 percent; Riverside, up 28 percent; Tonasket, up 10.4 percent.

• Grant County: Coulee City, down 50.3 percent; Electric City, down 5.2 percent; Ephrata, down 14.2 percent; Moses Lake, down 12.6 percent; Quincy, down 58.4 percent; Soap Lake, down 11.2 percent. Showing increases: George, up 15.3 percent; Grand Coulee, up 25.5 percent.

Mike Irwin: 665-1179

Figures show what many in Grand Coulee suspected, recession went easy on us so far.

About Scott Hunter

Editor of The Star newspaper in Grand Coulee, observer of life, history, patterns in things that matter.
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