Retailers ride PFD express

Posted: Sunday, October 08, 2000

This year's dividends from the Alaska Permanent Fund will total $1.15 billion, boosting virtually every segment of the economy.

"We had quite a few bills here that are now being paid," said Robin Fritz, receptionist for Aardvark Pumping, a septic tank business in Soldotna. "I've had quite a few calls from people who want to set up pumpings, and now that the Permanent Fund dividends are out, they know they can pay for it."

Larry Persily, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Revenue, said the state will pay dividends of $1,963.86 apiece to roughly 585,800 Alaskans. Some 385,000 of those were deposited electronically to bank accounts on Wednesday.

The state began mailing the rest on Friday, Persily said. Most Alaskans should have checks in hand by Oct. 24. The cash infusion is roughly equivalent to giving every working Alaskan an extra month's pay, he said.

And Alaskans waste little time in taking advantage of the windfall.

"October is our biggest month of the year -- above Christmas or any other holiday," Mike Keeney, manager of Bailey's Furniture in Soldotna, said Friday. "It's probably 30 percent above any normal month. The last three days, we've been going as fast as we can. There's an espresso booth in front of my store. Because people are out spending, their business goes up (too)."

Travis Burnett, sales manager for Hutchings Chevrolet-Oldsmobile-Cadillac in Soldotna, said he sees the boom, too.

"It's large," he said. "Generally the last couple months of the summer are good. Everyone is done fishing. The dividends are coming in. When you get a family of five, that makes a nice $10,000 down payment on a car or a house or anything," he said.

Dave Keating, owner of Freedom Realty in Kenai and Soldotna, said the dividends boost real estate sales.

"There's no doubt that during the summer months people are scheduling purchases of residences or land, and they usually time them for closing around the time the dividends come out," he said. "We have people every year that use permanent fund dividends to buy a home for the family."

He said all the merchants around town feel the influx of cash.

"People pay off snowmachines they ordered early," said Georgia Alexander, secretary-treasurer of A-1 Enterprises in Soldotna. "Everyone just waits for the permanent fund dividends."

Terry Rahlfs, director of Fred Meyer in Soldotna, said traffic in his store is up strongly .

"We have apparel, home electronics, home fashion and home improvement departments," he said. "That's where business is up the most. It tends toward the extra things -- electronics, VHS, DVDs or TVs."

However, the dividends boost grocery sales, too, he said.

"People tend to buy a little more, stock up a little," he said.

Londa Mason, assistant manager at Save-U-More on Kalifornsky Beach Road, said sales there rise about 25 percent in October.

"They just want to spend their money. They want to stock up for the winter so they don't have to go to Anchorage," she said. "We sell a lot of groceries, a lot more than we usually do. That, and everyone is buying tires."

She sells more groceries to coffee stands and restaurants.

"Everyone wants to go out and dine," she said.

Charlotte Legg, owner of Charlotte's Restaurant in Kenai, said her business has been very busy since the dividends came out. Restaurant owners learn to expect certain trends, she said.

"About a week before the permanent funds come in, it slows down quite a lot," she said. "It's in between paychecks. Money is tight. A lot of people have spent their dividends already. Then when they do get them, they like to go out and celebrate.

"We pick up a lot of business and a lot of $100 bills. Instead of credit card sales, its a lot of $100 bills."

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