Local store owners pleased despite slip in Christmas traffic | SteamboatToday.com

Local store owners pleased despite slip in Christmas traffic

Blythe Terrell
Urbane clothing store owner Trent Kolste, back, folds a shirt while fellow owner Mel LeBlanc, right, helps customer Bob Garber shop for his daughter Wednesday at the store located in Howelsen Place at the corner of Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue.
Matt Stensland

— Sales made during this year’s Christmas holiday were off, some retailers said, but many still saw a steady stream of customers in their shops.

Local retailers offered varied takes on the situation. Some saw the same number of sales as in previous years but a decrease in the dollar amount customers spent.

Owners at a few new stores in downtown Steamboat Springs said they were happy with the way products were moving. Others were trying unusual tactics, hoping to attract customers with special offers or new services.

On the streets

The Homesteader was buzzing with shoppers Christmas Eve.

“The last couple of days, traffic has definitely picked up a lot,” said Steve Kennedy, who owns the store with his wife, Daniela. “We anticipate having a fair amount of traffic after Christmas to the third (of January).”

The weather presented a hol iday challenge for his Lincoln Avenue housewares store.

“The hardest thing for us was, we had a lot of freight that didn’t make it because of the storms,” Kennedy said. “That’s hindering some sales.”

The Homesteader saw high interest in meat and specialty cheeses, which it recently started offering, Kennedy said. He also said the average ticket amount had decreased, noting that customers are selecting items that cost less.

“It’s about what we’d expected, actually,” he said. “It’s not what I expected six months ago, but it’s what I expected 30 days ago.”

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett walked the streets early last week to get a feel for trends.

“When I walked on the sunny side of the street, everybody said they had a great weekend – that everything went really, really well,” Barnett said, referring to the north side of Lincoln Avenue. “It looks like the majority of them are going to be flat for December, which they were happy about. The way December started, they expected to be weighted down. So I was pretty encouraged.”

For whatever reason, she said, retailers on the south side of Lincoln were seeing more of a drop.

Off Lincoln Avenue in the new Howelsen Place development at Seventh Street, Urbane co-owner Mel LeBlanc said her sales were meeting expectations. She said scarves and hooded sweatshirts were flying out the door at the store, which opened after Thanksgiving.

Next door, at Zirkel Trading, owner Steve Hitchcock said he was happy with the feedback he’d gotten from customers. About 75 percent of shoppers at the new men’s apparel and mountain lifestyle store had been buying gifts, he estimated.

“We’re up 100 percent,” Hitchcock joked.

Around the corner on Lincoln, a few people peered at the diamond-studded wares of Hofmeister Personal Jewelers. The store carries items of various prices, employee Shirl Cox said, so people on a budget can find something there. Plus, jewelry is sometimes a must-have during the holidays.

“I think a lot of women expect a little box under the tree,” Cox said.

Drawing people in

In tough economic times, retailers get inventive, Barnett said.

“They’re not necessarily doing deep discounting, but some are willing to negotiate or offer an extraordinary service,” she said.

Moose Mountain Trading Co. owner Jenny Wall organized a promotion for the 12 days before Christmas. Each day, items of a different color were 20 percent off. Dec. 16 was “Blue Day,” for example, when predominantly blue items were on special. It went well, Wall said, adding that people from across the country were calling to find out what the day’s color was.

At Images of Nature, owner Todd Savalox sells prints of photos of the outdoors. He’s started offering customers a chance to capture their own shots. Through Photo Excursions of Steamboat, people can take half- or full-day trips with photographer Carla Jones. The trips are designed around what the customer would like to photograph.

“We’ve had really good feedback initially, people who are thinking about doing something,” Savalox said. “We’ve sold some trips as gifts.”

He said he’s wanted to start the program for a while and was able to do so when Jones entered the picture. Traffic at Images of Nature has been off, he said, but the gallery usually does many sales between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Savalox said he hopes the new venture will bolster business.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Savalox said. “I think it’s a good idea. Eco-tourism is a huge industry.”

That creativity is important, Barnett said.

After the holiday push, however, sales could fall off, she said. Many retailers are concerned about the next month. January is a popular time for college students to hit Steamboat, Barnett said, and that group typically doesn’t spend much at shops.

“One of the things that many of them brought up is, they seem to be doing OK this month,” she said. “They just don’t know what’s going to happen in January.”

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