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Retail Businesses Boosted After Tough Years

Sales are up this year for Corte Madera retail businesses.

As the holidays wind down, things are looking up for Corte Madera retail businesses who've reported increases in their sales for the past year.

Due to the economy, sales tax revenues in Corte Madera, which make up the town's largest source of revenue, dipped since its peak in the 2006 to 2007 fiscal year by 16 percent, according to the town's annual budget report. Now, many local retailers are seeing an increase of sales compared to the previous year.

 "We found that same amount of people were coming in, but they were spending more," Chamber of Commerce Vice President Josh Kalkhorst said about The Village at Corte Madera. 

The Village at Corte Madera houses over 50 large-scale retail stores such as Macy's and Nordstrom. From January to November, sales at the outdoor shopping center have increased 17 percent from last year.  That's not counting the recent Christmas rush.

"Electronics did well. Apparel retailers had great sales," said Kalkhorst, who also serves as senior property manager for The Village at Corte Madera.

From early 2009 to 2010, The Village at Corte Madera had two stores close.  This past year, three new stores opened their doors to shoppers. Kalkhorst attributes the strong sales to more discounting, special seasons like back-to-school and stronger inventories.

"There's much more consumer confidence this year, and Marin is pretty healthy," he said. Corporate headquarters ship more product to the stores because there is more willingness to buy, and "with more product you'll have better sales."

The Village at Corte Madera is not the only shopping center seeing sales rise. Town Center Corte Madera also saw a 5 percent increase in sales, according to Chamber of Commerce Treasurer Stan Hoffman. Town Center is home to over 65 retailers, as well as restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen and Il Fornaio.  Although the final numbers for the year have not been counted yet, Hoffman is confident based on the high volume of shoppers for the past three weeks.

Residents are not only spending their money on clothing and electronics. Corte Madera has nine car dealerships, including Aston Martin Marin and Marin Acura.

"This community is very supportive of its business," Marin Acura General Manager Debi Stevens said. In 2008, Marin Acura had to cut back on staff and employee benefits to cope with low sales.

"We learned how much we need each other and how that unity saw us through lay-offs, slow sales, skeptical clients and a volatile market," she said. This past year, Marin Acura sales have increased 8 percent, with SUVs being the preference.

Corte Madera's recurring revenues for 2010 to 2011 are estimated to be $15.6 million, down 3.7 percent from the previous year. Sales tax represents 44 percent of unrestricted tax revenues and 33 percent of total recurring revenues for the town.  With sales improving, Corte Madera Treasurer George Warman estimates that sales tax revenues will increase 4 percent, adding $200,000 to the town coffers.

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