Retail sales in Marin are now lower than they were during the last economic slowdown. In 2002-03, following the tech crash, the annual value of taxable retail sales in the county fell to $2.85 billion. In the following five years, the economy recovered and sales increased to a peak of $3.3bn at the beginning of 2007. Today, just two years later, that gain has been reversed, and retail sales are heading fast towards levels not seen since the 1990s.
The chart above shows trailing 12-months taxable retail sales and the average annual % change for Marin County. The estimate is based on data released by the California State Board of Equalization, which tracks the 1% of taxable retail sales that are distributed to local cities and counties where the retail sales are originated. Trailing 12-months sales are now -14% down from the previous year, with most of this impact occuring in the last few months: June 2009 distributions were -29.8% lower than June 2008, -18.2% lower for July 2009 and -24.1% lower for August 2009.
Marin’s experience matches the US trend. Retail sales data released by the US Census Bureau today show that retail sales dropped sharply earlier this year, although the 5.3% y-o-y decline in sales for August may be an indicator that the worst is over.
Several of Marin’s cities will be hoping that sales don’t fall much farther because retail sales tax provides a large slice of their income. In August 2009, the 1% sales tax distributed to the City of San Rafael was down 28% or $350,000 from August 2008; Novato declined by 22.4% ($125,000), and Corte Madera was down 19.4% ($78,000).