Summer sales-tax revenues up
Weekly events, Triple Crown tournaments and improved consumer confidence have contributed to good sales for many area businesses this summer, with some seeing a noticeable jump in business over last year.
That helps explain why sales-tax revenues for June — the latest statistics available — were 8.73 percent higher than the same month in 2003. June marked the ninth straight month of sales-tax growth in Steamboat Springs.
“This has been our busiest summer in the three years I’ve been here,” said David Gatton, front office manager at Sheraton Steamboat Resort.
Though the resort saw an increase in “transient” visitors, Gatton attributed the jump in business mostly to group bookings in June and July, which were up about 200 percent from the same time last year.
Lodging businesses were among those who saw the biggest increases in sales-tax revenues, which increased about 17 percent from June 2003.
Barbara Robinson, general manager of the Holiday Inn of Steamboat Springs, said while business in June was good, July business, which was about 12 percent higher than the same month last year, was great.
“Once you see sales-tax figures for July, you’ll really see it,” she said.
Robinson credited the boost in customers to a better economy and family travel. As long as Steamboat maintains its family–friendly atmosphere, business should remain good, she said.
“We should continue to be as family-oriented as we are,” Robinson said. “I think that is our niche.”
But Peter Guler, owner of the Western Lodge, wasn’t as positive. Summer events did little to help his business, which has declined because of a number of factors, including the motel’s location at the west end of downtown and competition with hotel chains.
“We are the last ones from the ski hill, so we are continuously struggling,” he said.
John Schoen, manager of F.M. Light & Sons, was among downtown retailers who benefited from softball players and tourists shopping between games and events.
“The summer has been excellent, and the winter was really good, too. … It’s been an excellent year,” said Schoen, who estimated the store’s sales were about 10 percent higher than last summer’s.
June and July were particularly good months at the store, which saw exceptional Fourth of July sales, he said. Schoen didn’t know whether customer numbers were up from last summer, but people did seem to be buying more high priced items, he said.
Down the street at Straightline Outdoor Sports, co-owner Bruce Lee said summer customers, including Triple Crown players, appeared to loosen the hold on their wallets.
“People seem to be spending,” he said. “They aren’t as reluctant as they might have been last year.”
Triple Crown players also were a boon to the Slopeside Grill on the mountain, which directed advertising at the players for the first time this year and saw about 6 percent to 7 percent more sales this summer than last summer, manager Chris Peters said.
“All in all, I’d say our summer was really good,” he said.
Like many businesses, Slopeside’s business tapered off considerably in August. Peters suggested the community take advantage of the weeks before school starts by scheduling more special events in the first half of the month.
Liquor store sales generated the biggest increase in sales-tax revenue with about a 20 percent increase from June 2003, though that wasn’t evident in sales at Steamboat Discount Liquor, owner Tom Ihrig said.
“Business is ahead of last year … but not to the degree of sales-tax numbers, at least for me,” he said.
Ihrig attributed the store’s 7 percent to 8 percent increase in sales over last summer’s sales to Triple Crown and local softball season games, as well as improved consumer confidence.
“I’m just guessing … but I think there’s more people out there traveling,” he said. “I think more people just feel like the economy has turned a corner, and they have money to spend.”
Like many business owners, Ihrig hopes the city will continue offering summer events to attract crowds.
‘The more activity that’s going on in town … the more bodies that drive by our store on a nice hot day, which really, really helps our sales,” he said.
More and more people from Denver and other Front Range cities traveling to Steamboat for short vacations are helping to make summer almost as busy as the winter for some businesses.
“Now summer is definitely catching up to winter, if not superseding it,” Schoen said. “People are recognizing the hiking and biking opportunities here.”
Vicki Oyster, sales associate at Ski Haus, hasn’t noticed a big increase in customers or sales from last summer, though she is seeing more Front Range visitors.
“What I would say I’ve noticed is the amount of people from Denver coming up for weekend getaways,” said Oyster, who suggested the town might market itself more to people in the Denver area.
While businesses such as F.M. Light & Sons are expecting a typical spike in business during Labor Day weekend, other’s aren’t sure what to expect from the last big weekend of the season.
The Sheraton and Holiday Inn are booked at between 50 percent and 60 percent occupancy for Labor Day weekend, and managers don’t expect that will change significantly in the coming week.
“It’s not quite what we’d like to see,” Gatton said.
Slopeside Grill is among businesses preparing for big crowds and, managers hope, big sales on the mountain, where Art on the Mountain and two free concerts are scheduled throughout the weekend.
“That’s guaranteed busy days for us,” Peters said.
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