Aspen retailers hope to be back in black after Friday’s sales |

Aspen retailers hope to be back in black after Friday’s sales

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times Sandy Gelt of Denver examines a leather coat Friday afternoon while shopping at Pitkin County Dry Goods in Aspen. Gelt says she is visiting friends for the Thanksgiving weekend and "shopping is part of the whole experience."

ASPEN ” Black Friday”, known around the country to be the biggest shopping day of the year, didn’t produce big returns for Aspen retailers, but they did report steady business.

An informal survey of retailers showed that while consumers weren’t lining up in the early morning hours outside stores looking for bargains like thousands did around the country, some shops in Aspen were bustling on Friday while others had few customers.

“It’s slower [than last year]” said Amen Wardy, who owns the home store at the corner of Galena Street and Hyman Avenue. “But they’ll come.”

That cautiously optimistic attitude appears to be the consensus among Aspen retailers.

Burberry Assistant General Manager Janice Schmid said, based on her conversations with other retailers, they are nervous about the dismal economy and how that will affect local sales.

“We’re hoping for the best and we’ve got high hopes,” she said, adding that the store at the corner of Galena Street and Hyman Avenue was busy Friday morning. Many of her customers were visiting from out of town, particularly from the East Coast.

However, on Friday afternoon two customers said they came to Aspen for the weekend from San Francisco unaware that the women’s World Cup races were happening.

Schmid said she’s hoping the store’s fall-collection sale will draw customers in with 30 to 50 percent off merchandise. In fact, most local retailers are offering deep discounts in an effort to get people to reach into their pockets and spend some money.

The Gap, located on Hopkins Avenue and Galena Street, was bustling with people during the Friday lunch hour. That could have been partly because the store was in the second day of a two-day sale offering one free sweater with the purchase of another one.

Ben Fricke, manager of the store, said the Gap was open Thanksgiving for four hours.

“It was worth being open,” he said as he shoveled snow outside of the store on Friday. “It was slow for the offseason but I think people were waiting for the snow.”

He noted that from Saturday through Monday, the Gap is offering another deal ” buy anything and additional items are 50 percent off.

Business at Christian Dior across the street from the Gap was “steady,” according to an unofficial spokesperson who works there. The high-end accessory store is offering 50 percent off on select fall and winter items to lure people in.

J. Crew, which opened its storefront a week ago at the corner of Mill Street and Hopkins Avenue, is experiencing a consistent level of business.

“People are excited about J. Crew being here, it definitely feels that way,” said Jeremiah Bozek, the store’s manager.

Carolyn Formica of Pitkin County Dry Goods said sales really ramp up the week before Christmas.

“The business that Aspen does today is not the same as what stores in metropolitan areas do … the rules are different for us in Aspen,,” she said.

Formica added that only time will tell how business shapes up.

“We’re hopefully optimistic,” she said. “In my opinion, if we have a good snow year, we’ll do well … but this economic climate is affecting our international business.”

Like retailers, the lodging industry doesn’t expect much during the Thanksgiving weekend but with the World Cup races occurring, some lodges are fairing well; others are reporting they’re only half full.

While Thanksgiving hotel bookings in Aspen were below the norm, most lodge operators said the holiday is not a make-or-break time, and bookings don’t depend on heaps of fresh powder.

But advance reservations on the books as of Nov. 15 show numbers are way off from Dec. 1 through Jan. 10, according to David Perry, Aspen Skiing Co. senior vice president, mountain division.

Perry also noted that reservations on the books as of Nov. 15 were reasonably close to levels at the same point last season for January, February and March.

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