Retail sales show strength

LIHUE — Sales on cars, health products, building supplies and food appear to be on the up-and-up.

A report released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Friday showed that overall sales on most retail and food services fared better last month than they did at the same time last year.

Between Aug. 2013 and Aug. 2014, motor vehicle and parts dealers nationwide saw a 9.5 percent rise in sales, while health and personal care stores experienced an 8.1 percent jump. Sales at food services and drinking places, meanwhile, rose 7.1 percent over the past year.

It is a trend that, some business officials say, is also occurring on Kauai.

Ron Valencia, general sales manager at King Auto Center in Lihue, said new car sales in July and August were good when compared to the previous year and the previous quarter.

“Sales have been good and we are doing better,” Valencia said. “In general, the car business has been getting stronger this year and it is projected to do better. We have increased our inventory of new vehicles in order to fulfill the new demand.”

Aaron Berry, general sales manager for Kuhio Ford and Mazda in Lihue, said July sales were average but dipped in August.

The hurricane threats, he said, didn’t help with the store basically shut down for five days. An insurance moratorium also prevented potential car buyers from purchasing new policies for a few days during the two big storms.

“September is taking off and we are back where we want to be,” Berry said.

Other retail sectors also fared well on Kauai.

Steve Frailey, owner of Hawaiian Organic Noni near Larsen’s Beach in Moloaa, said his figures show 100 percent growth over the past two years, about 10 percent a month, to reach $60,000 in sales in August alone.

He attributes the sales growth to a lack of competition for his non-fermentation drying process, his limited wholesale and retail distribution to 150 stores statewide, and alternative health practitioners on the Mainland.

”We barely keep up with supply as the demand is growing,” Frailey said.

In fact, Frailey said, he recently added 17 acres to his original 20-acre farm and planted noni on the eight-acre natural extension.

Les Dent, owner of LD Coffee and Kauai Cigar Company, said they lost over half of their retail sales since a new self service display ban went into effect on July 1. It no longer exempts luxury cigars from over the counter displays and places them back in locked, behind the counter displays with other tobacco products.

“We did take a huge hit in our sales for July and August and we are trying to recover,” Dent said. “It has been a terrible few months in sales and we are trying to rebound by doing more things with the behind locked counter displays.”

ABC Stores spokesman Neil Ishida said statewide sales were up slightly from the previous year. The visitors numbers, he said, were down slightly but average sales adjusted just slightly higher than 2013.

The self-service tobacco display ban did result in a loss of sales, but Ishida said, he assumes that people, in time, will learn that the luxury cigar products are behind the sales register and they will go up again.

“We invested in merchandising in our stores so that it is visible and so they know we have those products available,” Ishida said. “It did affect our sales.”

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Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or by emailing tlaventure@thegardenisland.com.

Darin Moriki, county government reporter, can be reached at 245-0428 or dmoriki@thegardenisland.com. Follow him on Twitter at @darinmoriki.

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