Retail sales in Clark County increase in 3Q

Home construction materials contribute the biggest boost

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Clark County retail sales increased in the third quarter, with the purchase of home construction materials contributing the biggest boost to the area’s state sales tax collections.

Overall consumer spending in Clark County grew at an 8 percent annual rate to $1.3 billion in the three months ending in September, up from $1.2 billion in the same period in 2012, according to figures released this week by the Washington state Department of Revenue. The year-over-year increased looked solid for anything related to housing development, said Pam Lindloff, a Vancouver commercial real estate broker.

“Home furnishings, appliances and electronics all went up, too,” Lindloff said. “It’s stuff that’s home-related and related to residential construction and higher home sales.”

The state reported sales taxes on $229 million worth of construction activity in Clark County in the three months through Sept. 30, an increase of 23.8 percent from $185 million during the same period in 2012.

Rising demand for homes pushed selling prices higher, adding to state sales tax collections and prompting a surge of homebuilding activity, as measured by building permits. In the three months ending in September, 1,849 permits to build single-family houses were issued in unincorporated Clark County, according to data tracked by the county. That’s a 30 percent increase over 1,413 permits issued during the same period in 2012.

Third-quarter store-only sales for the county totaled $577 million, up 6.9 percent from the same three months in 2012. Sales remained fairly flat for general merchandise stores, which registered $144 million in sales, and apparel sellers, which brought in $32 million in the third quarter.

Retail sales were strong in home furnishings, up 31 percent to $21 million; electronics and appliance stores, up 26 percent to $19 million; and building materials and garden suppliers, up 16.7 percent to $70 million.

“Most everything snuck up just a little bit. But those things that are related to housing, there’s a pretty substantial increase there,” said Lindloff, an associate vice president with NAI Norris Beggs and Simpson,

An increase in Clark County’s e-commerce sales explains a sense of caution among the brick-and-mortar store owners Lindloff talks to. The state reported the county’s e-commerce and mail-order sales in the third quarter totaled $16 million, up 23 percent from the same quarter in 2012.

“The retailers are still cautious, especially the segments impacted by Internet sales,” Lindloff said.