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Home > Featured > Web captures big share of Washoe sales growth

Web captures big share of Washoe sales growth

By John Seelmeyer

The big improvement in retail sales figures in Washoe County during July drew oohs and ahhhs from the folks who follow these sorts of things, but a deeper dive finds that most traditional retailers weren’t big beneficiaries.

Instead of heading for shopping centers, Washoe County consumers sharply boosted their Web spending as worries about COVID-19 persist.

Even so, the top-line number was pretty impressive:  The Nevada Department of Taxation said that taxable sales in Washoe County during July increased by 13.2% from the same month a year earlier.

Put another way, consumers’ spending increased by a little more than $104 million from last July.

But not all retailers shared equally in the largesse.

Online retail sales increased by $42 million in July compared with the same month last year. That’s an increase of nearly 172%. 

In fact, the increase in Internet sales accounted for about 40% of the total increase in all retail categories during the month.

Among traditional retailers, the big winners in a stay-at-home era included hobby and sporting goods stores (up 33%), home improvement stores (up by 20.4%), health and personal care retailers (up 25%) and grocery stores (up nearly 13%).

The big losers?

Not surprisingly, restaurants and bars reported that their sales fell by 21% during July from a year ago.  That percentage reflects some big dollars: A decline of nearly $25 million in business.

Clothing stores barely held equal to last year’s sales during July, and department stores eked out a gain of less than 2%.

Another set of figures finds that consumer spending in Washoe County still remains weak compared to its levels at the start of this year.

Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-based research group, uses big data from payroll companies and credit-card companies to generate almost real-time reports on economic activity.

As of mid-September, the group said consumer spending in Washoe County was running about 10% below its level in January, before the COVID-19 pandemic.  That level of decline hasn’t changed much in the past 10 weeks.

Opportunity Insights also reported the number of small businesses operating in Nevada has fallen by 25% since the start of the year.

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