Wednesday, February 9, 2011

LOT confirms holiday business buzz

December drew in 20 percent more dollars than 2009

Express Staff Writer

Hard numbers are now available to confirm businesses' anecdotal claims to a successful holiday season. The tourist center of Ketchum just released its local-option-tax figures for December, and city businesses as a whole made 20 percent more money than they did in December 2009.

LOT—commonly called the "tourist tax"—is charged monthly and applies to the resort town's main industries, making it a simple gauge for reading the economy. Ketchum charges a 2 percent sales tax on lodging and by-the-glass liquor sales, and a 1 percent tax on retail sales and building materials.

"It was about the best holiday season we've had in five years," said Jim Funk, owner of Ketchum restaurant Despo's, days after the beginning of the year.

Despo's success seems to be shared by others. The city collected $210,700 in December, the most of any December since the recession hit in 2008. All told, that represents 20 percent more business than in 2009, but also 15 percent more than December 2008.

However, it's not on par with the city's usual performance. The month was still 20 percent short of its $267,700 average for the decade, calculated by inflating past LOT amounts to match the dollar's current value.

Still, an ascent seems to be taking place.

Ketchum businesses have been on an unprecedented streak since July. The town's businesses made 1 percent more money in July than they did in July 2009. That grew to a 9 percent increase in August and September, and an 11 percent increase in October. November doubled October's rate of growth at 22 percent.

Prior to that improvement, business had been stuck in a decline spanning 22 months. The average drop for these 22 consecutive months was one-fifth less business than during the same months of the previous year. Business bottomed out in March 2009, which experienced two-thirds the business of March 2008. Since then, things have been steadily improving.

Trevon Milliard:

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