The Aspen retail rush is on
December 24, 2014
Call it another Aspen-style bonanza, but instead of silver mining, it involves retail.
Shoppers were out in droves Monday and Tuesday in the downtown area, snapping up everything from expensive leather jackets and jewelry to board games and T-shirts that poke fun at the city's marijuana-friendly image. Parking spaces on streets in the commercial core were tough to find, leading several motorists to sit and wait behind a row of parked cars in hopes that something would soon open up.
At East Cooper Avenue's Aspen Eclectic, a purveyor of novelty items, children's toys and board games for people of all ages, owners Larkin and Carrie Horn had a busy day answering questions and ringing up sales.
Their clientele was a mix of visitors and local residents, Larkin Horn said, adding that he felt many people shopping in his store this week were second-home owners. The Horns have been doing business in a space near Poppycock's restaurant for about four years.
"December is one of our biggest months, but it's all done in about 10 days, from the 18th on," Larkin Horn said, echoing other retailers who also spoke of the typical late-December shopping rush.
The Horns said gauging from this week's business, sales are slightly ahead of last year's pre-Christmas activity.
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Aspen Eclectic is different from the typical big-box children's store that might be located in major cities. You won't find the latest video games or other high-tech gadgets. But if you're looking for Yahtzee or a funky kids' clock, this is your spot.
"We have something in here for everybody," Carrie Horn said.
"We try to offer more imaginative items, games, projects, things along those lines," Larkin Horn said. "We've got the old-school, retro stuff."
At Pitkin County Dry Goods, also on East Cooper Avenue, owner David Fleisher took a few minutes out of his hectic day to talk about sales trends. His store, which has sold clothing and footwear in Aspen for 45 years, was full of shoppers Tuesday afternoon.
Fleisher said most of his pre-holiday sales have involved women's outerwear.
"That's because women shop," he said.
Fleisher said it's hard to tell whether sales are higher than they were last year, but that it's possible. That's because the town is full of visitors through New Year's week and a lot of purchases occur after Christmas.
"There'll be more people in town next week," he said.
He said that while the trend of online shopping probably has had some type of effect on in-store purchases, Pitkin County Dry Goods is busy nonetheless.
"I'm not out on the floor, but I'd say we had a lot of locals in over the weekend — maybe they just get it out of the way before all hell breaks loose," he said. "We have a diverse group of people who shop here, from locals to one-time visitors to second-home owners."
Shoppers weren't solely on the hunt for unusual items for children or high-end Lone Pine leather jackets for men.
Lisa LeMay, area manager for O'bos Enterprises, which sells T-shirts at multiple locations in Aspen and Snowmass Village, said this week and next will be the busiest period of the ski season for the O'bos shops. LeMay was working Tuesday out of a store in the East Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall.
"We are having a great year compared with last year," she said. "We're very pleased with the crowds that have gotten into Aspen, even with the bad weather and airport delays. Happy crowds make for great customers."
LeMay said shirts that mention Aspen are hot-sellers during the holidays.
"Our guests from out of town are definitely looking to bring home something that says, 'Aspen.' And we especially have so many items that are very affordable. So they come in and end up buying quite a few things and do a lot of Christmas shopping for people back home."
Many local business owners said the Christmas and New Year's holiday weeks generate the lion's share of annual sales, and LeMay agreed that it's a critical time.
"It's fast paced because there are so many people in town, but by no means is it make-or-break," she said. "What's nice is once we get past New Year's, we get to coast the rest of the winter."