Golden glory

September sale-tax collections by the city of Aspen reflect this year's increase in offseason visitors, dominated by the so-called "leaf peepers" who visit the area for the fall foliage.

Taxable retail sales in the city of Aspen increased by 6.3 percent in September, putting the month roughly on par with 2019 overall, which is showing sales and the associated tax collection up 6.8 percent compared to 2018.

The $62.68 million attributable to 1,244 local businesses paying sales taxes in September accounts for 7.8 percent of the city’s total retail activity. That puts the month in roughly the middle of the pack compared to the other 11 months on the calendar, in terms of sales volume.

Notable in the industry-by-industry breakdown included in the city of Aspen’s consumption tax report released on Thursday by the finance department is that accommodations, the city’s largest sector by sales value, were up 4.4 percent, while restaurants and bars, the next-largest category, were down 1.4 percent. Liquor sales also declined 18.9 percent. Some of that may be attributable to the fact that the first two days of Labor Day weekend fell in August this year, or perhaps that the leaf-peeping crowds were bigger this year but were buying less booze.

Industries posting the largest monthly gains were construction, miscellaneous and clothing with 30.3 percent, 20.1 percent and 5.9 percent increases, respectively. Industries posting the largest monthly declines were liquor, automobile and utilities with 18.9 percent, 10.1 percent and 4.8 percent decreases, respectively. September’s lodging tax collections were up 3.8 percent from the same period last year. On a year-to-date basis, the lodging tax is up 5.5 percent.

Aspen’s portion of Pitkin County’s sales tax collections (one month behind city collection statistics because they are collected at the state level) for August were up 28.4 percent. On a year-to-date basis, Aspen’s portion of Pitkin County’s sales tax is up 16.8 percent.

Housing and Wheeler real estate transfer tax collections for October were up 91.7 percent and 84.6 percent respectively, with $1.18 million in housing RETT on the books for the month and $615,228 in Wheeler RETT. On a year-to-date basis through October, housing collections are down 3.8 percent to $7.09 million and 3.1 percent to $3.72 million for the Wheeler, compared to 2018.

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