Strong year for retail in Langley

Several data sets point to 2019 as a successful year for tourism-related business in Langley.

The 4 percent lodging tax, which applies to hotels and motels where visitors stay, earned a total of $171,827 in 2019, according to information from the city. This tax brought in nearly $15,000 more than the previous year, indicating a steady growth in tourism.

During the second quarter in 2019 (April, May and June), taxable retail sales for the retail industry were around $4.4 million in the Village by the Sea, a 12 percent increase from the previous year, according to the state Department of Revenue.

The category of all taxable retail sales covers a wide spectrum of industries, including construction, manufacturing, accommodations and food service. The retailing industry is a subset consisting of stores that sell such items as gifts, gas, auto parts and general merchandise.

Data for the third and fourth quarters have not yet been reported.

Despite these signs, Chamber of Commerce Director Inge Morascini believes this holiday season may not have been as prosperous for Langley merchants because of a few factors: the shortened selling season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Clipper not returning for the “Christmas by the Sea” excursion and, perhaps, First Street construction.

“I would surmise that the national trend to online shopping had an effect on retail sales in Langley as well,” Morascini said in an email.

Fred Lundahl, co-owner of Music for the Eyes, said the holiday season had been successful for his store, especially with the milder weather. And located further down First Street, the road construction had little effect on his business.

“As much as I sympathize with my neighbors, we didn’t have troubles with it,” Lundahl said.

Although not a very accurate indicator of tourism because it includes real estate, sales tax revenue also increased to an all-time high, earning nearly $12,000 more than in 2018. The city typically receives tax money two to three months after the money is actually spent.

Monthly totals in December did take a dramatic hit, but this is consistent with previous years. Clerk treasurer Debbie Mahler said this happens because what the city receives in December reflects the sales made in September and October, usually a slower time of year for businesses.

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