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Aspen retailers cash in on lack of snow

Carolyn SackariasonAspen CorrespondentVail, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado If there is an upside to a lack of snow, retailers around Aspen experienced it this past weekend.An informal survey of retailers throughout town showed that many stores posted high sales the days following Thanksgiving, particularly on whats known as Black Friday.While consumers werent lining up in the early morning hours outside stores looking for bargains like thousands did around the country, shops in Aspen were bustling over the holiday weekend.If they dont ski, theyre shopping, said Amen Wardy, who owns the home store at the corner of Galena Street and Hyman Avenue. Were doing great. Very busy.A couple of blocks away, Boogies was slammed on Saturday with customers.We did better than last year, said Boogies manager Nicolette Human of sales on Friday, the traditional day to shop for the holidays. She added that Boogies other four stores also did well. Most of the customers were tourists although there would have been many more if the snow was here, Human said.Across the street at Lush, foot traffic was slow but general manager Belle Richardson chalks that up to Thanksgiving being earlier than normal. She opened the store two hours earlier than normal on Friday and Saturday.Tourists are definitely willing to shop because they cant ski, she said.At D&E, a ski and retail shop owned by the Aspen Skiing Co. located across from the gondola, equipment rentals were steady, said store manager Dana Parthe.We were real busy [Friday], she said, adding the company offered 30 percent off rentals for the weekend as a consolation for the lack of snow on the mountains. They are just trying to accommodate people.Pat Newkam, co-owner of Attic Fantasies, a T-shirt and gift shop on Durant Avenue, said Friday started out slow but then sales gained momentum.Black Friday turned out to be better than we expected but not as good as we wanted, he said, adding sales were dead even with last year.The Newkam family has owned the shop since 1969 and has operated the store in the North of Nell building since 1977. Pat Newkam said the peak of the retail season starts mid-December and stays strong through February.Stacy Degouveia, general manager of Pitkin County Dry Goods, agrees that sales really ramp up the week before Christmas although her store experienced a spike the days following Thanksgiving.We did better than last year … people arent skiing, she said.Like retailers, the lodging industry doesnt expect much during the Thanksgiving weekend, especially when theres not a lot of snow.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 dont depend on heaps of fresh powder.Citing statistics representing some 75 percent of local hotels (some 27 of them), Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, said that at this time last year, area hotels reported reservations of about 21 percent occupancy. But walk-ins made for 29 percent occupancy during the weekend.This years projections for hotel occupancy for Thanksgiving were 17 percent, a bit below average. But flights in and out of Aspen on Wednesday and Thursday were fully booked.


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