Retail sales climb across Tri-Cities

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 8, 2014 

The Tri-Cities' retail giant -- the city of Kennewick -- saw retail sales climb faster than the state average thanks to auto sales and construction.

But Richland and Pasco also saw healthy sales increase during the third quarter of last year, according to recently released data from the state Department of Revenue.

Kennewick's total taxable retail sales grew by 8.8 percent to $457.9 million between July though September when compared to the same months in 2012.

Richland was just below the state average of 7.6 percent at 7.1 percent to $251 million, according to the data. And Pasco's total taxable retail sales increased by 6.2 percent to $240.3 million.

All three cities saw more residents and visitors willing to open their wallets and spend money on vehicles, apparel, building materials and garden supplies.

Pasco actually showed the most growth in retail trade, up almost 8 percent to $122.3 million when compared to the same quarter in 2012.

Kennewick and Richland each saw retail trade sales increase by about 4 percent. Kennewick still had the most retail trade sales at $262.5 million, while Richland had the least at $108.4 million.

Local economic experts have said the Tri-Cities has seen consumer confidence improve over the last two year.

But Barbara Johnson, Columbia Center mall's general manager, said recently that consumer confidence remains a little low, especially in the Tri-City area with discussions of Hanford layoffs and the government shutdown in October.

Having fewer layoffs than predicted thanks to a better-than-expected Hanford budget did help boost confidence in the Tri-Cities, she said.

But it wasn't until last month that Hanford contractors announced they would lay off 12 employees instead of up to 289. In December, 161 workers from Hanford contractors were approved for voluntary layoffs.

E-commerce continued to be a growing part of retail trade. Customers can buy products online, and if they don't like them, return them in brick and mortar stores, Johnson said recently.

Kennewick and Richland saw increase in manufacturing, finance and insurance sales, while Pasco saw a decline.

The Tri-Cities overall saw a growth in accommodations and food services during third quarter 2013.

And all three cities saw the value of construction projects climb between July and September compared to the same months the previous year.

Kennewick topped the charts with a spike of almost 55 percent to about $69.8 million in construction projects. Projects permitted in the third quarter in 2012 included a number of commercial remodel projects such as a $200,000 McDonald's remodel and a $175,000 remodel at Columbia Center mall. Kennewick also saw construction start on the most new single-family homes last year.

Richland saw a 28 percent increase in construction to about $47.5 million. Projects permitted between July and September included the $3 million Hanford Reach Interpretive Center, the $9.4 million second phase of The Lofts at Innovation Center and a $2.7 million remodel of Three Rivers Village.

Pasco's growth was more modest, at about 10 percent to $33 million. Projects permitted in third quarter 2012 included 10 duplexes worth about $2 million at Navigator Villas off of Road 68 and a $1.4 million Napa Auto Parts.

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-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512;

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