Chelan-Douglas Trends e-Newsletter


Annual taxable retail sales represent one of the most important measures of the size and changes in a local economy. These sales often serve as a key proxy of total county economic activity, since consumption forms the largest part of any economy.

Taxable retail sales provide critical financial support to local and state government entities, as they provides the largest share of revenues to both levels of government. The level and growth of taxable retail sales provide a sense of how well the economy is doing.

Taxable retail sales include, but are not limited to: retail trade (furniture, home and garden centers, vehicles, department stores, restaurants, etc.); agriculture, forestry and fishing; mining; manufacturing; finance and insurance; arts and entertainment; and real estate. All sales subject to the retail sales tax, including online sales, are captured in this indicator.

Taxable retail sales represented in this indicator apply to retail trade and construction activities in both the private and public sectors. But since Washington State does not tax all consumer categories, including food, drugs, and some services, as insightful as the taxable retail sales figures are, they do fall just a little short of providing a complete picture of all consumer transactions.

Not included taxable retail sales is incomplete, since Washington State does not tax categories such as food, drug, and importantly, most services.

Looking at the Total Annual Taxable Retail Sales & Annual Growth Rate for Chelan and Douglas Counties combined, two positive signs really stand out for 2017: the $2.95 billion in taxable retail sales are the highest in the series and are the eighth consecutive year producing an annual increase.

Individually, Chelan and Douglas Counties produced $2.03 billion and $923 million, respectively, in taxable retail sales during 2017. Each of these are the highest in the series. Chelan County has had six consecutive annual increases, and Douglas County eight.

During 2017 the taxable retail sales for the Cities of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee were the highest in the series, producing $1.1 billion and $437 million, respectively. Roughly 54% of all retail sales in Chelan County took place in Wenatchee and 47% of all retail sales in Douglas County occurred in East Wenatchee.

Linda Haglund, Executive Director, Wenatchee Downtown Association said, "Wenatchee is a hub of shopping and care facilities in this region. As the region grows, so should our economic vitality."

What might be driving these increases? It's not real estate, as taxes paid on these transactions are not included in the taxable retail sales figures. However, taxable retail sales of home improvement products and big ticket items purchased at furniture stores, for example, are significant.

"We hear a lot that downtowns and small business is suffering due to the Amazon Effect. What I have seen, and this shows it correctly, is that in THIS community we value small business and we DO shop local", said Haglund.

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