Some retailers say holiday sales were slower than expected | AspenTimes.com

Some retailers say holiday sales were slower than expected

Shoppers and pedestrians walk the Hyman Mall in January.

A number of local retailers say this year's holiday sales have been slower than expected compared with previous seasons.

While most businesses interviewed by The Aspen Times said the decline in sales is not a significant one, it is an interesting juxtaposition to this summer's record-breaking sales.

"Everybody said, 'Whoa, Christmas is going to be so crazy,'" Tlins shoes store owner Tara Spung said.

"And it's been OK — just OK," Spung said, adding that the store's summer sales well exceeded its sales over the holidays.

The store's winter visitors are inquiring more about pricing and altogether seem more financially conscious than the summer shoppers did, Spung said.

Jewelry store owner Joy West said her shop's holiday sales have been "awesome," but she said they are down from previous years.

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West said she thinks this season's "bloody cold" weather is to blame.

"The only thing I can think of is the ski lovers are totally focused on that, and for shoppers, the frigid weather is just not conducive to shopping," West said. "People just aren't as out and about, whereas when it's 30 or 40 degrees, people want to be out and about."

Lisa LeMay represents retailers on the Aspen Chamber Resort Association's board.

Through her experience representing local retailers, LeMay said the high-end retailers are primarily the ones saying this season's sales aren't adding up to last year and may be taking the biggest hit.

However, the loss is not drastic, LeMay said.

"No one I've talked to is suffering," she said.

Ralf Garrison, director of DestiMetrics, a research firm that tracks mountain resort economics, indicated a few key factors likely impacting retailers' sales this season.

First is the fact that the world economy is overall "less stable and more volatile" entering the 2015-16 year than it was at this time last year, Garrison said.

"Consumers and vacationers don't like uncertainty," he said.

Furthermore, the strong U.S. dollar serves as an additional headwind to international travelers, who are paying on average 20 percent more to visit the U.S. this year than they did last year, Garrison said.

"And that most impacts destinations with significant amounts of international business," Garrison said. "Like Aspen-Snowmass."

LeMay said she doesn't think there are as many international visitors in town this season as there usually are.

"We haven't seen that huge surge from some of our most popular destination visitors," she said, pointing to markets such as Brazil and Australia.

Another factor that could account for slower sales this season is the fact that Aspen has begun to reach its practical capacity, Garrison said.

Garrison said if Aspen's occupancy nears 100 percent, as it has during recent peak seasons, "you can't grow beyond full."

LeMay, who manages Aspen T-Shirt Co., also pointed this out.

"Last year was a huge year. It broke records," LeMay said of the store's sales. "So if you even match a record-breaker, you can be proud."

But not all local retailers say they are experiencing slower sales this holiday season.

Miller Sports owner Bill Miller said the ski store is doing extraordinarily well thus far.

"Honestly, it just depends who you talk to," LeMay said, adding that Aspen T-Shirt Co.'s holiday sales also have been strong.

"But everybody that comes to Aspen can afford a T-shirt," LeMay said.

erobbie@aspentimes.com

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