Business

Retail sales decline in third quarter

Taxable retail sales in Washington declined 11.6 percent to $26.4 billion in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.

The July through September sales decline is the third largest on record, the state Department of Revenue reported Thursday. Sales dropped 14 percent during the second quarter of 2009 and 12.8 percent during the first quarter of 2009.

But while some of Washington's bigger metro areas suffered double-digit declines, the Tri-Cities saw relatively minor losses. And the city of West Richland even gained more than 7 percent in taxable retail sales.

Seattle's taxable retail sales fell more than 13 percent, from about $4.5 billion in the third quarter of 2008 to $3.9 billion in the third quarter of 2009, the department said.

But in the third quarter of 2009, taxable retail sales declined 0.37 percent in Kennewick, from about $364.3 million in the third quarter 2008 to about $363.3 million. In Pasco, the decline was 2.33 percent, from about $227.2 million to about $221.9 million. Richland's taxable retail sales declined from about $209.19 million to $204.3 million, a loss of 2.33 percent, in the same period.

Taxable retail sales in West Richland increased from little over $17 million in the third quarter of 2008 to about $18.2 million in the third quarter of 2009.

Ruth Swain, West Richland's economic development specialist, said many new projects, including Kadlec Clinic West Richland Primary Care, are helping the city increase its share of taxable retail sales.

A lot of people are using the Van Giesen corridor to go to the Red Mountain area and helping support retail businesses located along the way, she said. Construction of new homes in West Richland also is likely to help retain the momentum, Swain said.

In Kennewick, the numbers didn't surprise City Manager Bob Hammond. This is close to what city officials were expecting, he said.

But it shows the Tri-Cities' relatively strong economy is in a better position to deal with the fall in taxable retail sales compared to many other parts of the state, he said.

"We also know things are picking up," Hammond said, referring to the 1.34 percent gain in the retail trade sector, a component of all taxable retail sales that includes retailers but excludes other industries such as services and construction.

But he said he doesn't know if taxable retail sales revenues will grow enough to make any changes in the city's projected budget.

Richland hasn't added any substantial retailer after losing Circuit City last year, said Gary Ballew, business and economic development manager for the city of Richland, which affected taxable retail sales in the city.

"People also are spending a little less than what they make, " Ballew said.

Local governments already have tightened their spending in view of lower taxable retail sales, said Ballew and Hammond.

"True discretionary, choice type of sales have never really bounded back, " Hammond said.

Pasco showed a marginal gain of0.40 percent in retail trade sales in the third quarter while West Richland gained 11.50 percent in the same period.

Swain said relocation of Henry's Restaurant & Catering from Richland to West Richland's Van Giesen Street,opening of The Sandberg Event Center& Gardens, The Gathering Place Bistro& Gifts, and White Bluffs Center for Quilting & Fiber Arts in the city have helped to broaden the city's retail tax base.

Yoke's and West Richland Municipal Golf Course also continue to attract visitors to the area, she said.

-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; pjoshi@tricityherald.com; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com

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