Are we done hoarding? Basalt sales tax report says yes

Parking was scarce in downtown Basalt on Wednesday May 26. The city is busy at the start of its traditionally strong summer season.
Scott Condon / The Aspen Times

Basalt’s latest sales tax report shows hoarding ended in grocery stores and residents of Midvalley drank as much as they could when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The April sales tax report reflects actual sales for March. The report shows that retail food sales at Basalt fell 13.6% in March of this year compared to 2020.

Grocery stores broke sales records in March 2020 when people hoarded toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and almost every type of food imaginable. Sales were also up because restaurants abruptly closed to in-person dining due to state and nationwide public health orders in the middle of the month at the start of the pandemic.

Basalt collected $ 192,769 in sales tax on retail food sales in March 2021, up from $ 223,213 in March 2020, according to the sales tax report.

City manager Ryan Mahoney said the drop was due to oversized sales last year rather than a poor month this year or growing competition in the valley.

“That’s what we attributed it to – not the competition with Carbondale,” he said.

A new town market opened in August in Carbondale, but there is little sign the new store is hijacking sales from El Jebel Town Market or Whole Foods in Willits, Mahoney said.

At Mahoney’s point, Basalt grocery stores experienced the second best March in 2021 since 2012, the first statistics available.

“Retail food has increased from pre-COVID figures, showing strong growth in this sector since 2019,” the report said.

The report also showed that the growth in retail alcohol sales during the pandemic has finally stabilized. Basalt liquor stores saw an increase of 1.8% in March 2021 compared to the same month a year earlier. Alcohol sales have been high throughout the pandemic.

The sales tax report showed the accommodation and food services industries rebounded this spring compared to last year.

Basalt lodges and hotels saw a 140% increase in sales in March compared to the same month in 2020. Their performance was the best of the month in the last decade.

Restaurants with bars saw their sales increase by 113% in March, while restaurants without bars increased by 139% from 2020. Both sectors had their best March in the last decade.

The report also reflected the boom in the construction industry. Sales of building materials increased by almost 68% compared to April 2020.

General retail trade and sporting goods retailing also posted strong growth. Sales of sporting goods doubled in March 2021 compared to the month of the previous year. General retailing grew 15 percent. Both categories now include taxes on online sales.

Overall, sales increased 17 percent in March year over year. Basalt collected $ 693,259 in sales taxes in March 2021, compared to $ 592,740 for the month of the previous year.

For the year to date, the April Sales Tax Report shows basalt sales tax collections increased 14.2% from last year. The city raised $ 2.63 million this year, up from $ 2.3 million last year.

“Given the sales tax increases seen over the past seven months, we can expect the city’s sales tax budget to be greater than budget,” the report says.

Basalt surpassed $ 7 million in sales tax collection last year. About $ 2.54 million came from retail food sales.

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