The first quarter of 2021 saw a rebound in taxable retail sales across the state over first quarter 2020, reaching $46 billion, thanks to strong sales in new and used automobiles and a healthy upswing in construction.

Retail trade, a subset of all taxable retail sales in the state, also increased 22.9% for a total of $20.9 billion. Retail trade includes sales of items such as clothing, furniture and automobiles, but excludes other industries, such as services and construction.

Taxable retail sales are transactions subject to the retail sales tax, including sales by retailers, the construction industry, manufacturing and other sectors.

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

Here are some sectors that saw increases in taxable retail sales during the first quarter 2021 compared to the same period (January-March) in 2020:

  • Construction increased 6.6% to $9.4 billion.
  • Taxable retail sales reported by new and used auto dealers rose 31.8% to $4 billion.
  • Building materials, garden equipment and supplies increased 27.3% to $2.2 billion.
  • Taxable retail sales in general merchandise stores grew by 13.6% to $2.9 billion.
  • Apparel and Accessories sales increased by 18.7% to $1 billion.
  • The majority of sectors saw healthy first quarter taxable retail sales increases from the previous year’s first quarter.

See first quarter 2021 taxable retail sales and retail trade sales by industry here.

Find out more information about taxable retail sales in:

Compare taxable retail sales numbers for first quarter 2021 and previous years by checking out the “Retail sales for cities and counties”  page on our website.

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

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.