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Retail sales in Cowlitz County rise since pandemic


Retail sales in Cowlitz and Clark counties are higher today than before the pandemic.

The Employment Security Department of Washington State reports both counties had 27% more taxable retail sales in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the second quarter of 2019, before the state shut down businesses to protect citizens from COVID-19.

The state adjusted data to account for current inflation and did not differentiate online sales from in-store sales, reports the department.

Washingtonians pay 6.5% in state sales or use tax on some goods and services whether the purchases are made online or in stores. Municipalities can add more sales tax to the state’s amount.

According to the Washington State Department of Revenue, the state’s overall retail sales tax revenue dropped 1.5% in 2020 from 2019 due to the pandemic. However, state data shows retail sales tax grew almost 14% in Cowlitz County from 2019 to 2020 and about 7% in Clark County during the same time period.

The Washington State Office of Financial Management says sales tax was the largest source of revenue for the state in 2019. Washington is more dependent on excise taxes, like the sales and use tax, than most other states, the office reports.


Retail sales tax is not collected on items like groceries, prescription drugs and medical services, while it is collected on services like temporary lodging at hotels and motels used for less than 30 days, according to a state legislative report.

The Employment Security Department reports Cowlitz and Clark counties still are recovering in hotel and motel sales. Cowlitz County lodging reached $7.8 million in the second quarter of 2021 compared to $9.1 million prior to the pandemic. Clark Country saw $18.2 million in lodging sales in quarter two of 2021, compared to a $24.7 million high prior to COVID-19, reports the department.

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