‘Tough summer’ for Glenwood mountaineering shop | AspenTimes.com

‘Tough summer’ for Glenwood mountaineering shop

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Kelley Cox/Post IndependentCarl Moak, co-owner of Summit Canyon Mountaineering, said the business had a "tough summer."

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Some business owners around town say the summer of 2009 wasn’t all that bad, and a few even say it was good in spite of the recession.

But for Carl Moak, co-owner of Summit Canyon Mountaineering, “it was difficult. It was a tough summer.”

He said business was “down in double-digit percentages” over the summer. And while he did not have statistical evidence, he felt the decline both in terms of the money in the till and the numbers of people who came through the doors to shop.

“Definitely, our number of transactions per day were down, and our traffic was down, just anecdotally … the feel of the store,” he said.

That experience echoes the city’s sales tax figures, which showed an average decline of more than 17 percent over all categories averaged together from June through August. Individually, the numbers ranged from about 5 percent down in food stores to a decline of 34 percent in furniture and home furnishings.

Miscellaneous retail was down by 15 percent.

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But Moak is upbeat about the future.

“The last couple of months we’ve seen some signs that things are at least leveling off. October was a decent month, September was a decent month, August was a little soft,” he said.

Moak and his wife, Kathy, have owned the business since buying it nearly five years ago.

The couple recently decided to sell off the coffee shop next door, although Moak said it was not because of the recession.

“It was a distraction for us, and it was less than 10 percent of the total business,” he explained. “It took a lot to keep it going. We just want to focus on the retail business.”

And the biggest part of that business, he said, has traditionally been clothing, although the store’s sales are “very strong” in outdoor gear for climbers, hikers, backpackers and skiers.

Summit Canyon, which first opened its doors in a different location about three decades ago, markets primarily to a local customer base, from Aspen to Vail to Grand Junction, and for the past 15 years has had two stores, one in Glenwood and the other in Grand Junction.

“Actually, Grand Junction has been doing comparatively much better than Glenwood Springs,” he said of the locations, explaining that retail sales seem to have rebounded more in Grand Junction, in general, than in the Roaring Fork region.

Among the Moaks’ responses to the changing economy, he said, was a decision to alter the store’s purchasing patterns.

“We have changed a lot in the way we buy product – how much we buy – to try to control how much inventory we have.”

He admitted that this change has meant that some customers, coming in for a specialty item that might once have been available, now have to special order.

But, he said, “We have some very, very loyal customers, and we try to focus on keeping them happy.” He said his store will place special orders and match prices, “even Internet prices, as long as it’s an authorized dealer,” and will often take care of the return shipping and handling if a customer decides not to buy.

He has tried to cut costs, he said, which has included trimming his staff by “about 20 percent overall,” both in Glenwood and in Grand Junction.

Along with his hope that the economy is on the mend, Moak observed, “There’s one side effect of the recession that’s good, although it’s not good if you’re unemployed. The market for employees is way better than it used to be,” meaning it is easier to find and keep good employees, who once might have quit to earn more money in the gas industry, construction or real estate.

“We feel good,” Moak repeated. “We feel we’re positioned in the right place, with the right product.”

jcolson@postindependent.com