Holiday sales growth may be slim in Colorado |

Holiday sales growth may be slim in Colorado

DENVER, Colorado – Retailers are scrambling for ways to draw shoppers amid predictions that smaller raises, higher food costs and rising unemployment could limit how much Coloradans spend this holiday season.

At the Mesa Mall in Grand Junction, for example, Aeropostale offers 50 percent off throughout its store on the day after Thanksgiving, while Hallmark offers 20 percent off storewide for early birds, according to the mall Web site.

“I think the watch word of the day is going to be value,” Colorado Retail Council President Christopher Howes said. “The good news is shoppers are going to be presented with lots of value-priced goods, lots of discounts, lots of advertising and marketing aggressively trying to get shoppers into the mall and purchasing.”

In September, the National Retail Federation said it expected 2.2 percent sales growth nationwide this holiday season, far below the 10-year average of 4.4 percent growth. In light of nationwide financial woes, the Colorado Retail Council says, it expects 1 to 2 percent growth in Colorado.

While discounters should do well this holiday season, higher-end boutiques may have a tougher time, Howes said.

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“I’m not convinced people don’t have the money. I think they’re in the waiting game. They want to make sure they have good cash flow through the winter,” Howes said.

University of Denver student Robin Cassedy said her financial position hasn’t changed much since last year, but she guessed she would still spend less this holiday season.

“I just seem to be more conscious of money spending this year. Every morning, I have as my home page, and it’s like the world is going to explode because the economy is so bad,” said Cassedy, 19.

Nick Green, 30, of Denver guessed he’d spend less too. This year his family is doing a secret Santa gift exchange, with each relative buying a present just for one relative instead of each one.

Challenges for retailers include guessing how much inventory to stock and the right number of seasonal employees to hire, Howes said.

The Cherry Creek Shopping Center is counting on its position as a top tourist destination in Denver to keep drawing people to the mall, and anecdotal evidence suggests shoppers still want to buy gifts for the holidays, general manager Nick LeMasters said.

He said recent sales reports show sales increases of up to 20 percent at several stores, which he said he was barred from naming. He said the increases were at stores ranging from apparel to home furnishings. He did not release a sales forecast.

The Mesa Mall was betting on holiday sales to be similar to last year, said spokeswoman Jennifer Hobbs. She said sales have been steady all year, and staffing and inventory levels are the same as last year.

“We just have such a diverse economic situation here with the natural gas sector, and it’s such a growing population,” Hobbs said. “We’re slowly starting to see decreases in traffic, but since we’re the only game in western Colorado, we still get those commuters from surrounding areas.”

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