The pandemic has hurt Whatcom restaurants, hotels and clothing stores
The past year has been a brutal year for restaurants, hotels and clothing stores in Whatcom County, and sales figures reported to the state show how badly they have been affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whatcom County restaurants made just over $ 295 million in sales last year, according to data from the Washington State Department of Revenue. That’s a 26.2% drop from 2019, or more than $ 100 million that disappeared during restrictions and pandemic closures.
It’s a little surprising that the decline was not worse, said Guy Occhiogrosso, President and CEO of Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“I think this is a testament to the resilience of the industry, given what they’ve been able to accomplish with take-out and other changes,” Occhiogrosso said.
Occhiogrosso believes it will be some time before restaurant spending returns to 2019 levels due to structural changes beyond what the pandemic has created. A shortage of workers is forcing restaurants to cut opening hours, with some announcing closings at different times of the week.
“There are a lot of components in the industry that are still in chaos,” Occhiogrosso said.
With travel limited for much of 2020, the accommodation industry’s revenue fell 45.6% in 2020, posting just $ 46.3 million in sales.
Clothing purchases also took a back seat in the first year of the pandemic. In 2020, clothing sales totaled $ 87.6 million, a decrease of 26.4% from 2019.
However, the residents of Whatcom spent money in other areas, which reflects what we were doing during the pandemic. Sales of electronics and appliances jumped 19.4% year over year, while building materials and garden equipment rose 14.5%. Vehicle sales were also slightly higher, up 3.7%.
As expected, online sales in Whatcom County also saw strong increases in 2020, with shoppers turning to delivery during the pandemic. According to state data, online sales increased 26.1% to $ 63.2 million in 2020 from 2019.
A sign of hope for local merchants was the holiday shopping season. During the fourth quarter, Whatcom’s overall retail sales increased 3.9% from the 2019 holiday shopping season. This increase occurred despite the fact that Canadians did not participate in the holiday shopping season. shopping in Whatcom County due to border restrictions.
The border towns of Blaine and Sumas have suffered very similar hits in retail sales with border restrictions in place. Retail sales in Blaine were down 24.7% in 2020 from 2019, while Sumas was down 25.7%.
Lynden saw a 4.7% increase in overall retail sales in 2020, while restaurant sales in Lynden fell 6.6%, a much smaller drop than in the county as a whole. Ferndale followed a similar trend with Lynden in restaurant sales, posting a 6.5% drop, but saw a strong increase in overall retail sales, increasing 13.7%.