Year-end sales taxes saw increases
December provided a mild positive bump in business for the merchants in Vail ” 0.8 percent. Still, a tough 2003 took a toll as jittery travelers stayed home, especially in March, the ski areas’ biggest month. Overall, 2003, sales tax collections declined 3.7 percent compared to 2002.
That means there was $364.3 million ” $14.1 million less in total sales activity last year “than in 2002. Increasing down-valley retail competition, the war with Iraq, more Internet sales activity and a ski resort that’s’ more than 40 years-old have been cited as reasons for the decline in retail activity in Vail.
Declining sales activity is a continuation of a trend, now entering its second decade, of flattening or declining sales tax receipts collected by the town of Vail. Sales tax collections are generally acknowledged to be a measure of the economic activity of an area. The numbers are not adjusted for inflation which has been running 1 to 3 percent.
The collections of the town’s 4 percent sales tax showed Vail Village has a 3.5 percent increase in collections in December led by a 6 percent jump in food and beverage sales and a 4 percent increase in lodging. Total sales for the month in Vail Village were $1.1 million.
“Business was good in December,” said Nicole Hoffmann-Ewing, manager of the Rucksack and General Store in Vail Village. “It was better in Vail village than it was in Lionshead for the first time all year. January ended up the same way.”
Her experience was mirrored by Ghiqui Hoffmann at the Laughing Monkey.
“We had a really good December. We had a sale in the beginning of December. That was he first time we had a sale before Christmas.”
Hoffmann said her store also participated in an electronic discount promotional package to Front Range Skiers and said she had good response to that.
Lionshead ” bolstered by the reopening earlier this year of the remodeled Marriott Mountain Resort” fared even better in December with 6 percent increase. Food and beverage sales increased a whopping 18.6 percent, from $61,585 to $72,052. Total tax collections in Lionshead for December were $438,269.
While activity in the commercial centers of Vail was strong, retail activity in East and West Vail, Sandstone and Cascade Village experienced an 8.8 percent decrease in December.
Overall retail sales for December were down 4.5 percent to $877,472 while lodging increased 4 percent to $693,879 and food and beverage sales increased 5.4 percent to $421,641.
Sales of liquor and sports items were the only retail categories to show an increase, up 3.5 and 2.5 percent respectively. Sport items are the largest single retail category and in December totaled $390,370. Food sales decreased 10.6 percent to $193,943, while gallery sales showed the steepest decline ” 35.3 percent” to $46,64 while apparel sales were down 2.4 percent to $87,553.
Vail is poised for a $500 million redevelopment over the next five years. The first step will be Vail Resorts’ $75 million Front Door project near the Vista Bahn that will create new base facilities and some new slopeside properties. It is being dubbed “Vail’s New Dawn” by Vail Resorts.
A redevelopment of the gondola building in Lionshead and other properties is expected to begin in three years.
Vail Resorts, the largest single business in Eagle County, announced it lost $14.5 million during its last fiscal year. It blamed the loss on the war with Iraq which hit at what is typically the most profitable time of year for the company, and also on a lingering national recession. The company reported last ski season that it hosted a record 718,000 skiers at Beaver Creek and Vail hosted 1.61 million.