Construction, auto sales help boost first-quarter retail sales 5.3 percent

OLYMPIA – Aug. 21, 2017 – Steady growth in construction and auto sales helped boost taxable retail sales by 5.3 percent in the first quarter of 2017 over the same period in 2016, reaching a total of $34.1 billion.

Retail trade sales, a subset of all taxable retail sales in the state, were up 4.1 percent to a total of $14.5 billion.

Taxable retail sales includes transactions subject to the retail sales tax, including sales by retailers, the construction industry, manufacturing and other sectors. Retail trade includes sales of items such as clothing, furniture and automobiles, but excludes other industries, such as services and construction.

These figures are part of a quarterly report released today by the Washington State Department of Revenue (Revenue). The taxable retail sales figures compare the same quarter year-over-year to equalize any seasonal effects that would influence consumer and business spending.

Some highlights of first-quarter 2017 taxable retail and retail trade sales:

  • Construction rose 12.6 percent to $6.6 billion.
  • Taxable retail sales reported by new and used auto dealers increased 6.6 percent to $3.2 billion.
  • Taxable retail sales reported by drug and health stores rose 14.5 percent to $672.1 million.
  • Taxable e-commerce and mail order sales increased 13.9 percent to $690.6 million.
  • Lawn and garden supplies and equipment jumped 13.7 percent to $163.9 million.


Taxable retail sales dipped for several industries:

  • Department stores sales dropped by 2.8 percent to $602 million.
  • Grocery and convenience stores decreased 1.2 percent to $806.8 million.


See first-quarter 2017 taxable retail sales and retail trade sales by industry

Of the top 10 most populated counties in the state, Whatcom and Pierce counties enjoyed the largest overall taxable retail sales percentage increase. Bellevue and Tacoma saw the largest increase of the most populated cities.

See more details on the taxable retail sales and retail trade sales by industry for:

County Taxable retail sales Percent change Retail trade Percent change
King $14.1 billion 5.4 $4.9 billion 3.9
Pierce $3.6 billion 7.6 $1.8 billion 5.5
Snohomish $3.2 billion 5.0 $1.7 billion 4.8
Spokane $2.1 billion 4.0 $1.0 billion 1.6
Clark $1.5 billion 6.7 $678 million 6.2
Thurston $1.2 billion 6.5 $563 million 4.8
Kitsap $979 million 7.1 $504 million 4.7
Whatcom $913 million 8.8 $399 million 8.8
Yakima $820 million -3.5 $410 million 1.1
Skagit $624 million 5.3 $341 million 6.2

City Taxable retail sales Percent change Retail trade Percent change
Seattle $5.8 billion 6.4 $1.6 billion 3.9
Bellevue $1.8 billion 9.1 $691 million 5.4
Tacoma $1.2 billion 8.7 $579 million 2.5
Spokane $1.1 billion 3.1 $502 million 2.0
Vancouver $868 million 5.1 $397 million 6.9
Renton $664 million 1.1 $335 million 1.4
Everett $662 million 0.9 $327 million 1.5
Lynnwood $551 million -3.2 $358 million -1.0
Puyallup $547 million 5.3 $361 million 2.7
Spokane Valley $509 million 3.7 $302 million -0.8


Accessing more results by city or county

Check Revenue’s Statistics and Reports page for additional detail about taxable retail sales and Quarterly Business Review for 2016.


Understanding how businesses are classified

Revenue uses business tax return data to create this quarterly report. Businesses are categorized under the U.S. Census Bureau’s classification system based on their primary taxable activity. The North American Industry Classification System – or NAICS – is the same method federal statistical agencies use for the purpose of analyzing economic data.

*The taxable retail sales reported in the e-commerce and mail order category do not necessarily include online sales made by businesses with a brick-and-mortar presence. Businesses categorized by this NAICS code identify their primary activity as online or mail order sales.


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The Department of Revenue is Washington state’s primary tax agency, nationally recognized for innovation and quality customer service. Revenue administers nearly 60 categories of taxes that help fund education, social services, health care, corrections, public safety, natural resource conservation and other important services Washington residents count on.