Aspen retail sales hint at upswing for holidays |

Aspen retail sales hint at upswing for holidays

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesBusiness is up and everyone seems to be having more fun this Christmas season, according to Kemo Sabe owner Tom Yoder, steaming a hat in order to reshape it at his western apparel shop in Aspen.

ASPEN – People are shopping – and spending – in Aspen in the week leading up to Christmas.

Reeling in a national recession at this time a year ago, Aspen merchants responded with unprecedented pre-Christmas discounts. This season, the “SALE SALE SALE” signs are mostly gone from storefront windows and some local merchants are reporting signs of returning consumer confidence.

Bag-toting shoppers and busy clerks appeared to be the norm around town.

“People are opening their wallets, finally,” said Mickey Alper, owner of Aspen Fur and Shearling. “It seems like the general attitude is much better. I’m confident that this year will be better than last.”

December retail sales in Aspen took a 19 percent tumble last year. Sales this season may not obliterate all memory of that deficit, but retailers say the season feels brighter.

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The number of customers coming into Kemo Sabe, Aspen’s longtime purveyor of western wear, is up compared to last December, said owner Tom Yoder. So are sales.

More importantly, the vibe feels right.

“It feels busy and we’re having more fun,” he said. “I think that’s the main thing. We and our customers are having more fun. Last year, we were all just a little puckered.

“I think it’ll be a better Christmas for everyone in Aspen – not just businesses.”

John McHugh, owner of McHugh Antiques, feels it, too.

“It seems like people are in a more comfortable frame of mind,” he said. “They’re more in the spirit this year.”

Holiday sales at Aspen toy store Short Sport are about even with last year. That’s reason enough to be pleased, said owner Laura Wilson.

“I’m feeling more optimistic,” she said.

Receipts are up at P.E. 101, a women’s clothing store, and owner Joan Teige is anticipating a big week next week, when the resort’s holiday occupancy is expected to hit its peak.

A few days before Christmas last year, the sign in the tiny shop’s window said it all, announcing the “Economy Kiss My Butt Sale.”

A year ago, retailers were offering two-for-one-discounts and slashing prices to move an inventory that had been ordered before the recession hit. Many are working with a far leaner selection this time around.

Snowboard gear and clothing shop Polar Revolution has cut its inventory by a third, said owner Carrera Shea. Sales so far are comparable to last year at the shop, which has moved from Hunter Street to its new digs on Hyman Avenue since last Christmas.

Radio Boardshop, too, is seeing holiday sales on par with last year, after a fall offseason in which receipts were down, said co-owner Michael Young.

Last weekend was a good one for Hamilton Sports, but owner Bill Miller is anticipating the ski shop’s strongest sales after Christmas.

“Next week’s going to be our big week – no doubt about it,” he said.

He, too, has reduced his inventory after being caught with more than the shop could easily move when the economy tanked last year.

Shoppers may have enjoyed last year’s pre-Christmas markdowns, but they were hard on retailers, Miller said.

“You might make a lot of sales, but at the end of the day, you don’t have any money to pay your bills,” he said.

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