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Stimulating sales in Aspen

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado ” As President Obama hopes the stimulus package will bring recovery to the nation’s economy, a handful of Aspen businesses are hoping to stimulate customers with bargains that play off the recession.

Restaurants and retailers are promoting their sales by acknowledging that times are tough, so tough that the word “stimulus” has become the buzzword in local advertisements.

Performance Ski is having an “Economic Stimulus Sale,” offering 50 percent off. At Ski Service Center in Aspen, deals are to be had in its “Stimulating Tune Special.”

Same goes for the Hickory House, which debuted its New York strip last week with none other than its “Economic Stimulus Steaks” sale.

A recent advertisement by Ruth’s Chris Steak House refrained from using the “S” word, but referred to the economy nonetheless. “Tough times call for tender steaks,” the ad read.

And recently Tempranillo restaurant in Basalt made another reference to the recession in an effort to attract diners, billing its daytime special as the “Rescue Lunch.”

Paul Dioguardi, owner of the Hickory House, said those type of advertisements resonate with consumers.

“I think it does get [the consumer’s] attention because the economy is on everyone’s minds,” he said. “You can’t watch anything on TV without hearing about how bad the economy is, how bad the stock market is, how people are losing jobs.”

Jeanette Darnauer, head of Aspen marketing firm Darnauer Communications, said playing off of the recession can be an effective advertising tool, provided the approach does not grow stale.

“It’s the issue of the day,” she said. “It’s an important, critical issue and people are thinking of how they can set themselves apart from the competition.”

And there seems to be an increasing number of “stimulus” deals being offered by local businesses. Darnauer said if businesses keep piling on with their own stimulus packages, the edge could be lost.

“When something is used over and over by a lot of people it doesn’t have a freshness any more,” she noted. “So in your marketing and your communications you always want to get ahead of the competition by doing something different than your counterparts.”

So far the tactic has been working for Performance Ski. Through Friday of last week it had been running its “Economic Stimulus Sale” for 10 days. The retailer typically does an annual sale in which it slashes prices, said Doug Parks, who works at Performance Ski’s ski shop.

“In general that ad has been pretty effective,” he said.

Dioguardi said the “Economic Stimulus Steaks” sale was a way to roll out the barbecue joint’s New York strip, which debuted last week for $9.99. The regular price is $19.99.

The cut-rate price for the steak might have more to do with drawing in customers than the recession gimmick. Dioguardi said he thinks it might be both.

“The price will get people to try it,” he said. “And the ad hits home: Times are tough but for $10 you can treat yourself to a steak.”

rcarroll@aspentimes.com


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