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Retail-Sales Rebound Bodes Well For Kootenai Economy

In a promising sign for the local economy, Kootenai County taxable sales rose 2 percent in the fourth quarter of 1995 compared with the previous year.

The results indicate the holiday shopping season may not have been as lackluster as some had feared. Computer and hardware stores, in particular, fared well, according to recently released statistics from the Idaho Tax Commission.

The broadest indicator of economic health, taxable sales represent almost all retail goods sold in the county.

The growth pace in retail sales slowed along with the North Idaho economy in 1995, and some counties saw sales drop in the second and third quarters compared with 1994.

The fourth quarter reversed that trend in Kootenai County, but not in the rest of North Idaho. For the three months ending in December, taxable sales for the five Panhandle counties rose barely 1 percent from the fourth quarter of 1994. Only Kootenai County showed a gain.

Kootenai’s sales are typically three times as much as the next largest county, Bonner.

Despite the recent slowdown, Kootenai County’s taxable sales are well above the level of a few years ago.

In the fourth quarter of 1990, taxable sales were $112.6 million. Five years later, Kootenai County rung up $180.4 million, a 60 percent increase for the quarter that includes sales during much of the Christmas shopping season.

That’s the busiest time for the Factory Outlets Mall in Post Falls. Sales this last Christmas season, though not completely tallied, suggest that 1995 equalled 1994, said Ed Adamchak, properties manager for the mall.

“It was pretty close to last year,” Adamchak said. “We saw a lot of household and table top merchandise sell well, which is typical for the holiday season.”

Some sectors of Kootenai County’s economy prospered in the fourth quarter.

Sales of computers and software rose a whopping 120 percent from the same period last year. Sales for hardware and plumbing shot up 104 percent, reflecting a strong home improvement market and continued activity in the area’s housing market.

Some product areas weren’t as fortunate in the fourth quarter.

Sales of building materials dropped 27 percent as the commercial and residential home building markets continue to fall off record years. Sales of dry goods at department stores dropped 55 percent from the same time last year.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Panhandle retail sales

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