Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Retail Sales Update

The latest sales tax figures from the California Board of Equalization show that Marin retail sales for the third quarter of 2009 were down 14% from the same period last year. Worst hit was San Rafael, which saw a 21% decline. Novato fared better, with a decline of 8%, while Corte Madera scored the best results, with 0% change from Q3 2008. Over California as a whole, retail sales were down 17%.
The chart above shows the annualized rate of change in retail sales. For the 12-months to September 30 sales fell to approximately $2.7 billion, approximately 18% below the peak of $3.3 billion achieved in 2007, and would have been even lower had it not been for the $100m+ impact of "cash for clunkers" auto sales in August.

Reports from malls and stores around the county suggest plenty of shopping activity over the holiday period. We'll see if this leads to a turnaround for retail sales in the new year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Larkspur Landing / Marin Country Mart: landscape plans revealed

The plans for reviving Larkspur Landing Shopping Center (or as it will be known, Marin Country Mart) were revealed today in the North Bay Business Journal. The center's new owner, JS Rosenfield & Co. hopes to find retailers to occupy the 50,000 square feet of space that is
currently either vacant or occupied by non-retail uses.

Goodbye Fountain
The landscape plans approved last month by the City of Larkspur, include renewing the perimeter with $1 million worth of olive trees. In the plaza area, the plans call for removal of the fountain, to be replaced by a play structure and a fire pit.
Landscape improvements will help to freshen the center (although I think it's a mistake to lose the fountain) but the new owner will have to do some impressive leasing to turn the center around and make it relevant as a shopping destination.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Retail sales back on downward track after Cash for Clunkers blip

As reported in the San Francisco Business Times, California's Cities and Counties are losing millions of dollars because of falling sales tax revenues. As of October, consumers were stubbornly refusing to open their purses and wallets and flash the plastic at stores statewide.

The chart below tracks the annual change in the 1% retail sales distributed to the largest cities in Marin, using data from the California Board of Equalization. The distributions take place 1-2 months after the sales are made; so it looks like the September bump was largely caused by the one-off impact of August spending on "Cash for Clunkers". Distributions were up in the main car dealer locations: +40% in Novato and +14% in Corte Madera.
For Marin County in total, sales tax distributions in September were at the same level as in September 2008. That's an improvement over the year to August, where sales tax revenue averaged $2.2 million per month in 2009, compared with $2.7 million for the same period in 2008.

Come October however, and the sales tax distributions were back on the downward track, averaging -14% below October 2008 for the county as a whole. This is somewhat better than the May-August period this year, when the year-on-year sales decline ranged between -20% to -30%. It could be that retail conditions are improving, or it could be that some of the Clunkers payments carried over into the October numbers. The November figures will be out soon, at which time we will find out more. National indicators suggest an upward trend.