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Area retail sales dip slightly from late 2007

Vehicle sales particularly hard hit, down $85 million

Retail sales in the city of Spokane and Spokane County fell during the fourth quarter of 2008, but both did better than Washington’s other major urban areas as the state began to feel the bite of the national recession.

The figures were obtained Monday from the Department of Revenue.

In the county, taxable retail sales declined 7.8 percent, to $1.86 billion, compared with the last quarter of 2007. Sales of new and used automobiles, boats, motorcycles and recreational vehicles were particularly hard hit, dropping a total of more than $85 million.

Construction fell by $31 million, and wholesale trade by more than $32 million.

Among the biggest gainers were information, up $10.6 million, and finance and insurance, up $2.4 million.

The other Washington counties reporting more than $1 billion in taxable sales for the quarter were Clark, down 13.8 percent at $1.1 billion; King, down 11 percent at $10.3 billion; Pierce, down 12.8 percent at $2.8 billion; and Snohomish, down 13.7 percent at $2.6 billion.

For the city of Spokane, sales slipped 0.6 percent to $1.02 billion. Other cities with more than $1 billion in sales were: Bellevue, off 6.6 percent to $1.4 billion; Seattle, off 5.3 percent to $4.2 billion; and Tacoma, off 10.8 percent to $1.05 billion.

Marty Dickinson, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, said the results were “remarkable” in light of the snowstorms that slowed commerce considerably after Dec. 17.

But she noted merchants and restaurateurs she spoke with reported improving sales before the severe weather hit.

“I am pretty positive about what I am hearing,” Dickinson said, adding that she is anxious to see what the first-quarter numbers look like.

Contact Bert Caldwell at (509) 459-5450 or