Item: The Washington-area retailing industry is the largest private-sector employer, employing about 140,000 people, or one of every 10 workers in the area.
Item: Retail sales, totaling nearly $13 billion a year, account for about one-fifth of the Washington-area's output; nationally, retail sales represent only one-twelfth of the gross national product.
Item: Local retailers pay about $600 million in local taxes.
These figures are a sign that the retailing industry continues to be part of "the solid-rock core" of the Washington economy, the Greater Washington Board of Trade said yesterday in releasing a new survey designed to draw greater recognition to the retail industry.
Concerned that their business is being overshadowed by more glamorous high-tech companies, retailers had the survey drawn up to show their economic power in the area.
"We believe the retail industry has been taken for granted in the Washington economy," said Robert Vandemark, who as chairman of Garfinckel's serves as the chairman of the Board of Trade's retail bureau.
"The real impact in the area economy is not really understood," Vandemark added. Among other things, he said, he hoped the survey would be a valuable tool for local politicians in their decision-making. Although Vandemark said the retail bureau had no specific legislation it wanted enacted, other retailers noted that for years the industry has been trying to get the Maryland legislature to repeal blue laws that ban many Maryland stores from opening on Sunday.
Also, officials noted, the retail industry wants Maryland and the District of Columbia to join Virginia in passing laws imposing civil fines on bad check writers. Writing bad checks now draws only criminal penalties, which retailers said are hard to obtain, given the other priorities of law-enforcement officials.
The survey of area retailers focused on food and merchandise retailers only. It excluded automobile dealers, gasoline stations, restaurants and bars.
Obviously, Vandemark said, had these establishments been included, the "numbers would have been greater." But even without them, the numbers are impressive, he said. "I knew we were big, but I didn't think we were that big."
The study notes that the retail figures are not surprising, given that the Washington area "leads the nation with a median effective buying income of $36,002 per household."
According to the study, area retailers pay their employes nearly $1.8 billion a year in wages. Another $640 million is paid out in fringe benefits.
The retailers pump $1 billion back into the region's economy by purchasing goods and services such as rent, utilities, supplies and construction. Of these, advertising accounts by far as the largest expenditure, $261 million a year.