As state’s leader in sales growth, Spokane County knows shopping

THURSDAY, NOV. 27, 2008

Spokane County shoppers have a reputation to live up to when they hit stores Friday.

Spokane leads all 39 Washington counties in per capita retail-sales growth over the past five years, according to a survey prepared by the Eureka Group, an independent economic research firm based in Pollock Pines, Calif.

From 2002 to 2007, per capita sales rose 15.5 percent to $9,607. Although the per capita total leaves Spokane County short of Skagit, King, Chelan and Snohomish counties, none of those came close to Spokane’s growth rate.

Spokane County also leads the state in an associated benchmark, relative strength ratio. The relative strength ratio compares total sales growth for each county against that for all of Washington. Spokane’s growth more than doubled the state rate.

Business leaders have cited the survey results as an indication the county’s economy has fared better than most. But Jim Vaughn, publisher of “The Washington State Retail Survey,” cautions that growth in the 2002-’07 period probably won’t extend to 2008.

He said figures used for 2008 were projections prepared before the economic downturn, making estimates – his or anyone else’s – questionable.

But short-term guidance is not what his survey’s readers are looking for, he said. Developers, store chains and financial institutions who buy the report care more about long-term trends.

“They’re trying to get a sense of the overall health of the retail sector,” he said.

Vaughn said he has prepared the Washington survey for four years and a California survey for 16. He uses information gathered by the states and the U.S. Census Bureau.

He makes a 34-page summary available for evaluation by potential buyers. The complete, 500-page report sells for $160.

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