March sales tax reports show strong numbers across the board in Summit County

Diners enjoy a warm meal on a snowy evening in downtown Breckenridge on March 4. Taxable sales were up 80% in March in Breckenridge compared with March 2020, when businesses were forced to close at the start of the pandemic.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

All four towns and Summit County reported sales tax collections that were up significantly in March compared with the same month in the previous year — no surprise since businesses were shuttered midway through March 2020 due to the pandemic.

The town that saw the biggest jump in collections was Breckenridge, which had previously struggled to bounce back from the pandemic and lagged behind growth in Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon, towns that aren’t as reliant on the tourism industry.

According to a financial report in the Breckenridge Town Council’s Tuesday, May 25, work session agenda packet, the town’s sales tax collections were $3 million over its year-to-date budget and $1.1 million ahead of the prior year at the end of April. The report stated that March’s net taxable sales were up 80% compared with March 2020.

Some of the industries in the town that saw increases were short-term lodging at 125%, retail at 109%, restaurants and bars at 82%, marijuana at 48%, construction at 46%, and grocery and liquor stores at 30%.

But the growth goes beyond a year-over-year increase. Even compared to life before the virus, all industries except restaurants showed increases in sales tax collections.

“I think we’ve seen quite a few visitors, and that’s more clearly seen in the retail sector because they didn’t have as many COVID restrictions,” said Leslie Fischer, accounting services manager for the town of Breckenridge.

Connie Elder, owner of Maggie Pond Boutique and Peak 10 Skin in Breckenridge, agreed.

“Our sales are exceeding last year and the year before COVID,” Elder wrote in an email. “It is a lot different (from) this time last year. Last year, our storefront was closed, and we were only doing business via social media since our town was not open to guests.”

In general, Elder said business has been good these past few months as restrictions continued to loosen.

“Our business at Maggie Pond Boutique has been very good the last few months,” Elder said. “We have actually been doing well since we opened back up in June of last year. It is awesome seeing our seasonal customers back in the store. They are all really happy to be shopping with us again.”

Reflecting on 2020, Fischer said Breckenridge officials had expected to see a loss due to the pandemic, but the town fared better than expected.

“We were anticipating to be down in sales, and we were down some but not the huge loss that we were anticipating, and it wasn’t as bad as the recession in 2008 and 2009,” Fischer said.

In total, the 80% jump in taxable sales in March is a big swing compared to the month prior, when the town’s February report showed it was behind nearly 3% in taxable sales compared with February 2020.

Silverthorne reported the second strongest growth in collections, up 74% compared with March 2020 for a total of nearly $1.4 million. Frisco’s sales tax collections were up 42%, and Dillon was up 17% compared with March 2020.

In Silverthorne’s report, the industries with the strongest numbers were lodging, the Outlets at Silverthorne, online retail, and food and liquor. Lodging was the industry to have the largest swing, up 241% compared with March 2020. The second largest swing in the town’s report was the Outlets at Silverthorne, which showed a 137% increase in sales tax collections compared with March 2020.

Frisco’s report showed similar trends. The highest swings were in the arts and crafts industry, up 203%; recreation, up 214%; hotels and inns, up 155%; vacation rentals, up 142%, and gifts, up 140%.

Graphic shows sales tax collections in 2021 in Summit County towns.
Graphic by Taylor Sienkiewicz /

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