Retail sales up 6 percent on San Juan

Nationally, retail sales for the week before Christmas rose 14.8 percent, compared with the same period a year ago,  according to the research firm ShopperTrak.

Holiday shopping in San Juan is matching nation wide trends, said Victoria Compton, executive director of San Juan County Economic Development Council.

Data from the Washington State Department of Revenue shows sales were down in December in 2010 by 6 percent with $196, 232 in reported retail sales tax and then up by 6 percent in 2011 with $208,097.

Funk and Junk Antiques was bustling with customers the day after Christmas — for two reasons.

First, they were one of the only stores open on the island and two, they sell unique items, according to owner Annie Adams.

“The last two years have been dismal,” Adams said. “This year has been a teeny bit better.”

Adams and her husband have been in business for 21 years and have two kinds of holiday customers — those that buy for themselves and those buying gifts for antique lovers.

But unlike other retail businesses across the country that make 20 percent of their sales for the season during Christmas, Adams sells big ticket items throughout the year.

Other San Juan business owners like David Hanson at the Toy Box said the store had a good December, especially the nine days leading up to Christmas, which can equal total sales in August and July.

“We did about the same as last year,” he said. “We were within a few dollars and I mean really just a few dollars.”

He doesn’t contribute good sales in December to children’s toys but rather the variety of items in the Toy Box, whether it be games for adults or Legos for youths.

Adams said her general feeling is that people are just sick of not buying.

But where are they buying?

Countrywide online shoppers have spent almost $35.3 billion online for the holiday season so far, a 15 percent increase from a year ago, according to comScore.

“I’m not surprised that Internet sales are up across the country,” said Victoria Compton. “It’s more convenient than catching the ferry.”

Compton said that if islanders shop on internet sites based in Washington — like Amazon and REI — then San Juan County still receives the tax benefits.

Or they can shop online with local businesses like Pelindaba Lavendar.

Stephen Robins, owner of Pelindaba Lavendar, reported an increase in overall sales of 37 percent with sales in Friday Harbor up 44 percent and online shopping up 19 percent in the month of December.

The more islanders shop elsewhere or on Internet sites based out of state, the higher property and other tax rates will go up because less retail tax will be collected locally. But Compton said the numbers for this holiday season should give people hope.

“Given the global and economic scare and global cries in Europe we are doing well,” Compton said.