Vail ‘same store’ sales show big early-season drop |

Vail ‘same store’ sales show big early-season drop

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

Sales tax numbers tell a story, but not the only one. While Vail’s sales tax dipped in November and December of last year, stores and lodges in the tourism business took a much bigger hit.

The Mountain Travel Research Project, a Denver-based resort consulting company, has put together its first “same store” survey of 36 Vail lodges, stores and restaurants, evenly split between Vail Village and Lionshead, measuring those businesses’ gross sales. Those sales in November and December 2008 were markedly worse than the same period in 2007.

Meanwhile, a look at the town’s sales tax collections, especially in Lionshead, shows a smaller loss, or even gains in some categories.

“That shows the impact of the new businesses in Lionshead,” Vail Economic Development Director Kelli McDonald said.

In fact, the whole point of surveying existing businesses was to measure the effect on revenues of new businesses that opened in new developments in Vail.

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“If you go back a little, you’ll see that sales in Lionshead were up substantially, with Vail Village down a little or flat,” McDonald said.

Working with the town’s finance department, researcher Ralf Garrison put together a list of businesses and measured gross sales, as opposed to sales tax collections. That was done to get a more complete picture McDonald said.

“Nonprofit groups don’t pay sales tax at lodges, and retail stores that ship items don’t pay sales tax either,” McDonald said. “We wanted to include that business.”

Garrison said the numbers in the survey show the new stores are doing “less bad” than their established counterparts. And, he said, the survey doesn’t measure sales from businesses such as grocery and liquor stores.

What the numbers show, at least in part, is the affect of an expanding business community, McDonald said.

“We did the redevelopment in Lionshead based on the idea that it would have a positive impact on revenue,” she said. “That’s been borne out by the data.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

4.6 Percent drop in overall Vail sales tax in November 2008.

6.4 Percent drop in overall Vail sales tax in December 2008.

16.5 Percent drop in November/December gross sales in “same store” report.

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