Locals spread holiday cheer as Steamboat retailers face challenges
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There is no question the 2020 Christmas season was impacted by COVID-19, but retail stores in Steamboat Springs said holiday sales were better than they expected thanks to the support of locals and second-home owners.
“I know that leading up to Christmas, retailers were feeling really good — mostly because so many people from the community were making an effort to shop locally, and that was really apparent to the merchants,” said Lisa Popovich, program manager for Main Street Steamboat.
Luke Dudley, who owns Ohana with his wife, Emily, agreed that the local community made a big difference as retail shops were dealing with COVID-19 health restrictions and a later-than-expected opening at Steamboat Resort.
“It was a good holiday season,” Dudley said. “Obviously, we had some extra challenges with the capacity limits, but in general, sales were good. We’re really thankful for our local following and people that were willing to wait outside in the cold while other people were shopping.
“I think locals were willing to go over the top to try to support local businesses, and that was really great,” he added.
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Dudley said sales were more spread out this holiday season, and he believes that was a direct result of the pandemic.
“I think the sales were a little bit more spaced out because people were being proactive about trying to get out a little bit early and trying to find times when it wasn’t quite as busy,” Dudley said.
Steve Kennedy, who owns The Homesteader with his wife, Daniela, said he also saw some changes in the way shoppers approached the holiday season. He said his store, which features quality kitchenware, meats and cheeses, chocolates and nuts, sauces and spices and many local items, saw many of its customers place orders online. He also saw an uptick in corporate orders.
“It was just a very different season,” Kennedy said. “We ended up shipping a lot more product from our shopsteamboat.com website and also from our Blüml’s chocolate website. That really helped smooth out the month, because it was pretty quiet for foot traffic, especially in the first 20 days of December, and then once we got into Christmas, the foot traffic picked up.”
Kennedy said the store did face some challenges, including supply chain difficulties, which made it hard for him to get many of the kitchen products The Homesteader is known for selling. He said their chocolate production was also impacted because his wife had to limit the size of her production team because of COVID-19 restrictions, which in turn resulted in less of her products for sale.
Across the street at F.M. Light and Sons, the volume of shoppers was less than previous holiday seasons.
“Traffic was definitely down,” said spokesperson Chris Dillenbeck. “The people who did come in were shopping and supporting us as much as they could. I think we saw more people shopping earlier in December, getting the gifts sooner and trying to beat the crowds a little bit.”
He said the impacts of COVID-19 were different at their three Steamboat businesses, which include F.M. Light, Moose Mountain and Chrysalis. He said F.M. Light doesn’t offer online shopping, and he believed many of the store’s customers may have felt a little uneasy with crowds.
“We didn’t have to limit the crowds because people can be pretty spread out in here,” Dillenbeck said. “We know that some of the locals didn’t feel comfortable coming out due to possible large crowds. Unfortunately, that was one setback from COVID.”
But Dillenbeck said it was a pretty good holiday season considering the alternative.
“We were just thankful that we were open because before Thanksgiving, it was kind of looking like things may have had to shut down,” Dillenbeck said. “We were just glad to be open, and any sales that we could get were really appreciated.”
“Christmas season was really good for merchants based on the overwhelming local support,” Popovich said. “Honestly, people shop local every year, but not to the extent they did this year.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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