By Chuck Slothower
DURANGO, Colo. Durango's retail sector appears to be gathering steam as the region continues to improve from the lackluster economy of a few years ago.
Sales are growing, as reflected in the city of Durango's sales tax revenue. For the year through November, city sales tax receipts grew 5.6 percent compared to 2011.
The revenues are on track to reach their highest level in five years.
"More people are coming to Durango, therefore spending more money," said Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce.
"I feel like people have a little more discretionary income," he said. "They're feeling a little more confident."
The retail scene in Durango has grown with new TJ Maxx and Sports Authority stores at Durango Mall. That makes residents more likely to keep their spending in the city, Llewellyn said.
"Every time we add that mix, it just helps the situation," he said.
Durango's Local First campaign has helped raise awareness of the benefits of shopping locally, he said.
Several new restaurants have opened downtown, including Chimayo at 862 Main Ave., Thai Kitchen in the Crossroads building at 101 W. 11th St. and Rice Monkeys at 1050 Main Ave.
Hotel rooms are also filling up. Lodger's tax revenue rose 5.9 percent for the year through November. The city is poised to post growth in lodger's tax revenue for the second consecutive year, after hotels took a big hit in 2009 and '10.
Still, some businesses continue to face tough times. Sales were down for the holiday season at Southwest Sound, a downtown retailer of CDs and DVDs.
"We had business not as much as we would have liked," said owner Robert Stapleton.
Stapleton said he remains optimistic as customers continue to frequent his store.
"I can't be disappointed," he said. "People gave me money."