Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Retailers surprised by Ketchum LOT gains

First month of fiscal year shows small increase in sales

Express Staff Writer

A shopper looks over the offerings Tuesday at Country Cousin, a store on Sun Valley Road in downtown Ketchum. Photo by Willy Cook

Ketchum's local-option tax receipts for sales activity in October, the first month of the fiscal year, showed a slight increase over last year. Declines, however, were posted in most of the categories.

LOT figures reported to the city in November, representing transactions during the previous month, increased $2,374, or 2.37 percent, over the same month last year. Tallied with the 7.45 percent increase for numbers reported in October, total activity is up 5.32 percent for this fiscal year.

Figures reported in November in the "other retail" category (all but liquor and building materials) increased $7,208, or 11.8 percent, over last year. So far this fiscal year, that category is up more than 17 percent over the same time last year.

Some retailers were puzzled by those numbers.

"I'm very surprised to hear that," said Jay Emmer, owner of Ketchum Dry Goods clothing store. "Most retailers I've talked to are significantly below their prior year's figures."

Emmer said his store on Sun Valley Road has the benefit of being on a strong retail block, but he's had to incorporate new measures to keep up business.

Next door at Sheepskin Coat Factory, proprietor Brenda Norton echoed that sentiment.

"It's a steady decline," she said. "This is the worst slack I've ever seen, and I've been here for 40 years."

To keep going, she's reduced the amount of inventory she has and has placed additional emphasis on customer service. On Tuesday, she'll host a biannual customer appreciation event.

"(The events) let people know I'm still here and give them a reason to celebrate," she said.

The only other LOT category to increase is liquor receipts, which rose almost $500, or 4.21 percent. An 8.61 percent decline for numbers reported last month, however, mean a 3.21 percent drop in that category so far this fiscal year.

Building materials plunged more than 20 percent, taking in $4,127 less than the same month last year. That category is down nearly 19 percent in fiscal year totals.

Room receipts continued a two-month slide, posting a 17.62 percent, or $855, drop in November. The previous month the category plunged more than 31 percent, or $3,081, from the same month last year.

Condominium receipts slowed almost 17 percent in November's figures, taking in $345 less than last November. Combined with the 4.33 percent dip in October's collection, that category is down 8.3 percent for the fiscal year.

This year's figures provide a clearer picture of the local economy than last year because the River Run area has now been part of Ketchum for a full fiscal year. So, month-to-month comparisons for this fiscal year and for fiscal 2011 both include River Run figures for transactions such as lift tickets, liquor sales and merchandise.

Despite the glum scenario many people are facing, Norton says things could be worse.

"Being here at Christmas is a real privilege," she said. "Business aside, it's a great place to live."

Rebecca Meany:

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