Retail sales soar in county in 1Q

New construction, auto sales contribute to 8.1% year-over-year increase

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter



Clark County 1st quarter

Activity subject to sales tax

2013 — $1.07 billion

2012 — $994 million

2011 —$928 million

2010 — $916 million

2009 $921 million

SOURCE: Washington Department of Revenue

Auto sales, new construction and retail trade contributed to an 8.1 percent year-over-year jump in taxable retail sales in Clark County in the three months ending in March.

Sales activity subject to tax topped $1 billion in the first quarter for the first time in years, although sales at grocery stores and gas stations remained relatively flat, according to a state report issued Monday. The Washington State Department of Revenue reported taxable retail sales reached $1.07 billion in the county during the first quarter of 2013, up from $994 million during the same period last year.

Department and general merchandise stores rang up sales totaling $500.3 million during the first three months of the year in Clark County, a 9 percent increase over $458.4 million in store-only sales last year.

Sales of new and used motor vehicle and parts once again turned in a large year-over-year increase, as more confident consumers traded older vehicles they'd been holding onto while waiting for better economic times. Motor vehicle sales in Clark County reached $101.2 million in the first quarter, up nearly $10 million from $91.3 million during the same three months last year.

Construction activity reached $153.8 million in the first three months of the year, an increase of 13 percent from $136.1 million during the same period in 2012.

Several large commercial projects broke ground in Clark County during the second quarter, with development costs and the purchase of construction materials contributing to state sales tax collections.

Rising demand for homes pushed selling prices higher, adding to state tax coffers and prompting a surge of homebuilding activity, as measured by permits. In the three months ending in June, 325 permits to build single-family houses were issued in Vancouver and unincorporated Clark County, according to data tracked by the county. That's a 24 percent increase over the 262 permits issued during the same period last year.

Statewide taxable retail sales were up 8 percent to $26 billion over the same period last year, with strong showings in construction, up 16.9 percent; building materials, up 14.2 percent; auto sales, up 11.6 percent; general merchandise, up 7.1 percent; and accommodations and food service, up 4.7 percent.