Report: Aspen’s retail economy remained strong in February
February trade data showed an Aspen retail economy that produced $126 million in overall sales, topping January’s results by $9 million and continuing an upward trend following the abandonment of public health restrictions and a waning pandemic.
Total February sales blew out February 2021 performance by 79.9%, while year-to-date sales of $243.8 million topped the first two months by 83.1%. last year, according to the City of Aspen Department of Finance’s monthly tax report released last week.
Comparisons to early 2021, while misleading due to public health restrictions placed on businesses at the time, “exaggerate how robust the economy was,” Chief Financial Officer Pete Strecker wrote in the report. “That said, compared to February 2020 (just before the impacts of COVID) and a more ‘normal or healthy’ economy, February 2022 still reflects 38% growth from this period two years prior.”
According to the report, twelve of the 14 retail industries from which the city collects sales taxes saw gains in February, ranging from a 14.9% increase in banks to a 163% increase in housing. Only the automotive sector, down 2.1% in February, and construction, down 9.6%, saw sales declines from February 2021. Strecker pointed out that the fashion sector also enjoyed a boost due to the wealth of visitors.
“February 2022 data remains anchored by strong accommodation sales (both in short-term rental offerings and traditional lodges) and an equally strong month for restaurants and bars,” Strecker noted. “Additionally, the fashion sector of the local economy had a robust month as the more affluent tourist traffic of this period found what they were looking for. There were two sectors of the economy that showed muted sales compared to the same period a year ago, construction and automotive; however, it should be noted that construction had a historically high month in 2021 and therefore distorts this comparison, and auto sales continue to be hampered by supply chain challenges.
Through February, accommodations generated $86.1 million in taxable sales, 178.1% better than the first two months of 2021, according to the report. February alone accounted for $45.2 million of that total. The $12.5 million in taxable sales generated from short-term rentals of 30 days or less in February accounted for 28.1% of that transportation, according to the report. The city currently has a freeze on new STR license applications in 2022; The moratorium, which went into effect in December, is due to expire at the end of September 30, while city leaders and officials work to regulate the industry.
“While the December 8 moratorium that prohibits any new vacation rental permits remains in place, City staff continue to meet with industry stakeholders regarding short-term rentals and the various areas of concern expressed by the Advice for the accommodation segment,” Streckeer wrote. . “Stakeholder feedback has been invaluable to date and will help shape an ordinance for Council’s consideration next month and add clarity to the future of this industry for the City of Aspen.”
February averages 10% of overall annual sales in Aspen, according to the report.