By Jorge Casuso
First of three parts
June 6 -- After five years of economic growth, Santa Monica saw
sales fall flat last year for the first time since 9/11, according
to City sales tax figures analyzed by The Lookout.
Reflecting a downward trend in the national economy, sales in the beachside
city dipped by one percent, from $2.968 billion in 2006 to $2.941 billion last
year, a drop of some $27 million.
The gap could narrow once sales tax figures -- which are the basis for calculating
total sales -- are adjusted for the final quarter to reflect late tax payments,
City officials said.
“I think the economy itself is just slowing,” said David Carr,
the City’s principal budget analyst for investments. “I think it’s
a reflection of the national and state economies.”
Sales during the busy holiday shopping season -- which had been increasing
steadily in recent years -- will likely be flat in 2007 compared to the same
period the previous year, after late tax payments are taken into account, Carr
By comparison, sales tax revenues statewide were about flat during the final
quarter of last year, while taxes for Los Angeles County were up slightly up
during the same period, Carr said.
Car and clothing sales were down in 2007, while sales at restaurants, bars
and furniture, appliance and electronics stores were up, according to an analysis
of sales figures by category.
General consumer retail goods, the City’s largest tax-generating business
group, saw sales dip in 2007 due in part to a decrease in sales at apparel and
department stores, according to the sales tax revenues.
Department stores saw sales drop from $64 million in 2006 to $58.2 million
in 2007, in part due to the closing of Robinsons May at Santa Monica Place,
which has shut down all its stores, except Macy’s, for a major remodeling
that will take about a year and a half to complete.
Sales at women’s apparel stores dropped 5.4 percent in 2007, from $111.934
million in 2006 to $105.89 last year, while family apparel stores also saw a
drop in sales from $175.73 in 2006 to $167.52 in 2007, a 4.7 percent decrease.
The $14 million drop in apparel sales was offset by increased sales at electronic/appliance
stores, which saw sales jump by $23 million -- from $144.8 million in 2006 to
$167.8 million last year, a 16 percent hike.
The strong showing was due to the first full year of sales at the Apple and
Circuit City stores Downtown.
Autos and transportation, Santa Monica’s second largest tax-generating
group, saw sales drop nearly $22 million, from $774.5 million in 2006 to $752.7
million last year.
Auto dealerships, which have been one of the city’s prime economic engines,
saw the biggest drop -- 7 percent. Dealerships, which are concentrated along
Santa Monica Boulevard, saw sales fall by $33 million, from $481 million in
2006 to $448 million last year.
The decrease in auto sales was partially offset by an increase in auto leasing,
which saw a 4 percent rise from $161 million in 2006 to $167.5 last year, while
the rising cost of gas boosted sales at service stations by 3.6 percent, from
$132.43 million in 2006 to $137.25 million last year.
Tourism related-businesses -- bolstered by the plummeting value of the dollar
– helped offset the generally sluggish local economy, accounting for the
city’s biggest sales hike, with the Ocean Avenue Hotel District and Pier
posting the largest increase of any area in the beachside city.
The hotel district, which stretches from Pico Boulevard to the pier, saw sales
jump by 15 percent -- from $142.48 million in 2006 to $163.70 last year. In
addition, tourism helped restaurants and hotels across the city post sales hikes.
Food and liquor sales at restaurants and bars rose some $22 million -- from
$504.5 million in 2006 to nearly $526.5 million last year, with the biggest
increase coming in hotel liquor sales, which rose nearly $10 million -- from
$68.76 million to $78.36 million, a 14 percent hike.
Among sales categories, home furnishing stores -- which are mainly concentrated
Downtown -- posted a healthy 10 percent increase in sales, from $105.6 million
in 2006 to nearly $116 million last year.
Specialty stores, however, saw sales remain relatively flat, rising only 1
percent, from $136.6 million in 2006 to $138.2 million last year.
Sales in the City’s three key business districts -- Downtown, Main Street
and Montana Avenue -- were relatively flat in 2007.
Downtown saw only a slight increase in sales in 2007, from $526 million in
2006 to nearly $528 million last year. In fact, sales actually dropped Downtown
during the final quarter of 2007, compared to the same period the previous year.
Businesses along high-end Montana Avenue saw sales increase by nearly 3 percent,
from $112.73 million in 2006 to $115.92 million last year, while on Main Street
sales were flat at $101 million.
II -- Downtown Sales Skid