Retailers optimistic about holiday shopping season |

Retailers optimistic about holiday shopping season

Danie Harrelson

— Santa Claus pulled up in his sleigh Saturday afternoon at Torian Plum Plaza with an ear tuned to children’s Christmas wishes.

But the grownups who planned his arrival had a wish list of their own this weekend.

The Mountain Business Association invited parents to bring their children to the plaza for photos with Santa, in anticipation the adults would take the opportunity to do some holiday gift shopping on the mountain.

“By offering something for the kids, we thought we could get some parents to come out and take advantage of what we’ve got up here,” event organizer Merilee Thiele said.

The holidays provide retailers with an excellent opportunity to market their businesses to the entire family, she said.

Teresa Andrews, who helped with the photography, said she hoped the child-friendly environment would encourage locals who might be wary of shopping with children in tow to come.

“This is our way of extending some holiday cheer to people,” Andrews said. “We want them to think of the mountain as not just a place for tourists to spend money.”

Wendy McConnell headed to the mountain Saturday to find Christmas presents for the remaining people on her list.

The majority of her holiday spending occurs over the Thanksgiving weekend in Denver, McConnell said, but she customarily saves her last-minute shopping for local businesses.

Twenty-two years in Steamboat Springs has given her a better idea of where to find the best deals, she said.

“It’s good that businesses try to reach out to the locals during this time of year,” she said.

“Because we are a town driven by tourism, some items are often higher priced than what I would like to pay.”

The weeks before Christmas offer locals an excellent time to shop where they might not usually venture, McConnell said.

“It’s quiet before people begin to pour in to ski over the holidays,” she said.

Michelle Toner, manager of Steamboat Trading Co., said retailers that depend on tourism learn to sit tight during those quiet times.

Like other Ski Time Square businesses, Toner said her business has only recently played host to tourists.

“We’re still somewhat slow, but we’ve seen a big difference in what we saw two weeks ago,” she said.

Area retailers recognize their situation differs somewhat from last year, Toner said, but they remain optimistic about the 2001-2002 ski season.

Toner said locals often stop by Steamboat Trading Co. to purchase food and beverages after spending the day on the mountain, but tourists make the larger purchases.

“They’re the ones who buy the souvenirs,” she said. “Those are the people we’re expecting to see more of in the coming weeks.”

Brandon Grayson, manager of Steamboat Gear in Ski Time Square, said the clothing store depends largely on people from out of town who wish to take back a reminder of their time in Steamboat Springs.

December sales are down from last year’s holiday sales, he said, but those numbers should rebound as tourists begin to fill the surrounding condos and hotels.

“Before people begin coming to ski over Christmas, it’s always a slow time,” Grayson said.

Steamboat Gear increasingly sees a majority of its customers in the late afternoon and evening, as skiers mill about the shops before and after dinner, he said.

That foot traffic spells revenue for local businesses, said Sue Carpenter, an employee at SportStalker in Ski Time Square.

SportStalker extends its hours until 7 p.m. to accommodate people who decide to shop after they ski, she said.

“It’s a courtesy to our customers,” Carpenter said. “Some of them are tourists who might stop by after dinner, and some are locals who just can’t get here until later to shop.”

Carpenter stayed close to the wrapping paper and ribbons Saturday, as many people purchased items specifically for Christmas gifts.

“I’ve seen a lot of holiday shoppers come in,” she said. “They’re wanting to spend money.”

Many businesses that seem empty and overlooked now could see a change almost overnight, said Ingrid Moore, a salesperson at The Red Horse.

“There might not be that many people in the stores now, but come Christmas and the weeks following, this place is a zoo,” she said.

Tourists who spend Christmas in Steamboat Springs typically wait to buy their presents during their vacation, Moore said.

“People can’t get worried about what hasn’t happened yet,” she said.

“The tourists are on their way, they will buy their gifts in Steamboat, and we will have a great season.”

Santa wasn’t too worried, either.

The holiday season is no time to fret, he said.

“After all,” he said. “We need to remember what Christmas is.

“A time to be merry.”

To reach Danie Harrelson call 871-4208

or e-mail

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