Vail Valley business owners: Consumers seem more willing
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – No one is saying good times are back, but consumer spending, the lifeblood of the national and local economy, seems to be on the rise.
A handful of local business owners interviewed last week were unanimous in their opinion that after Americans’ wallets slammed shut last year, those billfolds are starting to open a bit.
“It seems to be coming back – you hear it in people’s attitudes,” said Cabal Yarne, owner of the Arriesgado clothing store in Lionshead.
Yarne said his customers seem to want the latest fashions, and, with Arriesgado offering discounts on many items, those customers appear willing to pick up the latest threads.
Downvalley, Erin Seabury is seeing more, but different customers. The Everyday Outfitters store in downtown Eagle is starting to see more customers, mostly locals, of course. And, Seabury said, some of those customers haven’t been in the store for a while.
“Men haven’t shopped for a while, and they’re starting to come in,” Seabury said. “I had a guy come in and tell me he hadn’t bought anything for a year. He bought a sweater and was checking out a pair of boots.”
Seabury said her store is selling its share of expensive designer jeans along with its discount items. But what people want, Seabury said, is good value for their money.
Nicole Magistro, co-owner of The Bookworm in Edwards, said the same seems to be true at her shop.
“People aren’t just buying anything,” Magistro said. “They’re looking for satisfaction, they’re looking for customer service and referrals.”
Magistro is fighting a battle on multiple fronts, though. Besides the sour economy, she’s also fighting online book sales. To stay competitive, her store has tightened up some of its business operations, keeping closer track of inventory, and analyzing every expense.
The bottom line, though, is that people are buying books they don’t want to wait for at the library, she said.
Looking for value has been a boon for Tommy Hoffman. His company, Rocky Mountain Vacation Rentals, has grown nearly 250 percent over 2009 for the first six months of this year. The company, now five years old, is ready to roll out a full-time booking service next month in order to meet demand.
Hoffman said people are looking for the best deals they can find, and are looking for it by renting condos, townhomes and single-family homes in resort areas.
“I’d say 90 percent of our shoppers are still very price conscious,” Hoffman said. But Americans like to travel, Hoffman said.
“A typical family two years ago would stay in a hotel,” Hoffman said. “Now they’re saying ‘Let’s get a house and have a better experience.'”
Hoffman’s company is also trying to “add value” to every rental, from lift ticket discounts to spa packages.
Hoffman’s company does some sales, too, and he said he believes people may think the market is finally ripe to re-enter.
“We’re seeing five times more requests for real estate information,” he said.
While value sells these days, there are still people who seem ready for some old-fashioned bling.
Darcy Zimmerman, manager of the Golden Bear store in Vail, said people seem to be stepping up a bit in their purchases from that store. Customers who might have bought a “Baby Bear” last year are stepping up to the “Mama Bears.”
“And we’re seeing more diamonds going out the door,” Zimmerman said. “We still have our ups and downs, but we’re hearing the ‘E-word’ (economy) less and less. “Hopefully we’re on our way up.”
Across town, Yarne said he was looking at empty streets in Lionshead in the middle of last week, but he remains optimistic about the coming season.
“Our summer was up (from last year) and good,” Yarne said. “I have a feeling we’ll have a good winter.”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.