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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Show Sales Good, County Sales Taxes Up, Retail Sales?

Peggy Hadcock, Hearts Desire, Little Falls and Lis Barsuglia-Madsen, Heirlooms, Harrisville both have emailed recently that shows are going well for them despite the frequent rains.

Five North Country counties have had an increase in sales tax revenue for the first six months of 2008 as compared to the same period last year. The state average (excluding NYC) increase for the same time period is 3.7%.
The state Dept. of Taxation and Finance reported that sales tax revenue in Clinton County increased by 12.1%, Essex County 3.4%, Saratoga 5.2%, Washington 13.3% and Warren 5% ($524,345 more than last year).
A survey of primarily small shops along Canada St. in the village of Lake George conducted by the Chamber in late June yielded responses that characterized the summer's starting weeks as "poor" to "average." Tax revenue increases surprise officials, Thom Randall, Saturday, August 16, 2008, Tri-Lakes Today, p.5.

Word-of-mouth from Saranac Lake Main Street shopowners is that the rains have brought people in which has been good for sales. One noted that customers seem to have more smaller bills than in previous years.

66% of the NYS lodgings who responded to a survey of business during the July 4th weekend by the NYS Hospitality & Tourism Association stated that their occupancy was as "good, if not better than" the same week last year.
Linda Diello, bookkeeper for High Falls Gorge in Wilmington and Tim Bressette, manager for Ausable Chasm in Ausable Forks agreed that the trend is up for admissions but people are spending "a little" less on merchandise. Tourism Industry Booming Despite Lagging Economy, Matt Bosley, Saturday, August 9, 2008, p. 5.

The year-to-date visitation numbers at the outdoor venues of the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) as compared to last year are down as of Aug. 12 from 101,531 to 87,919. Their indoor venue, the Winter Olympic Museum, has increased from 6,134 to 6,971. Already short summer seems shorter still, Monday, August 18, 2008, Press Republican, p. A5.

Since 2001, annual attendance at Fort Ticonderoga has decreased from 115,000 to 77,000 in 2007 with a 10% increase in 2008. Fort Ticonderoga considers sale of artwork, Chris Carola (Associated Press), The Sunday Gazette, August 10, 2008, p. B10.

Last year I broke down the sales tax revenues for the 14 northern NY counties by some 10 industry types (those associated with tourism and second home growth) within each county from the years 2002 through 2004. The retail industry (non-chain) sales tax revenue average was one of the two lowest ones during those three years. The figures will be posted shortly at http://www.adknccrafts.com/.
I spoke briefly with Lee Kazanas, Jay Craft Center, last week. Lee was torn away from our conversation by a woman who seemed intent on buying every piece in their beautiful shop on the Jay Village Green. I did manage to buy a print Cascade Cairn by the exhibiting artist Lisa Godfrey and one of their trademark four indented corner bowls.
We had been talking about high end sales versus middle class sales. A fine art/antique dealer from Palm Beach, FL, recently told me that his middle class market had dropped out of existence. Selling a $400 dollar painting had become much, much harder for him in the last year than selling a $15,000 one. Lee and I agreed that we have seen the equivalent in the region; the high end rustic furniture makers are selling while the potters and glass makers are more likely to be challenged in making sales.
Retail shopowners with no other income streams, such as selling their own product, may be the most threatened businesses in our region because of the increase in food and gas prices. Many shopowners have already been minimizing overhead and maximizing turnover with very careful inventory purchases over the last few years and moving into other income streams. My hat is raised to all those who continue to welcome customers with a warm smile as they juggle living with a smaller profit margin.


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