Weekend good to Steamboat retailers | SteamboatToday.com

Weekend good to Steamboat retailers

Chocolate walk, deals lure shoppers to downtown Steamboat

Barb Prater, left, and Susan Mann, skiers in town from Pratt, Kan., check out Christmas ornaments at Steamboat Art Co. in downtown Steamboat Springs on Sunday afternoon. The day's slower pace brought a respite for local shop owners after busy Black Friday weekend had them hopping. Steamboat Art Co. owner Melinda Miller said business was up significantly from the same weekend last year.

For all that Steamboat Springs is, it isn't a Black Friday shopping destination. But even though midnight deals didn't draw thousands out early Friday morning or leave customers camping on downtown sidewalks, the nation's most famous shopping holiday and ensuing weekend did plenty to fill local coffers, and by Sunday afternoon, downtown Steamboat retailers were happy.

They were exhausted, too, but profitable, optimistic and happy.

"It was excellent," Steamboat Art Company's Melinda Miller said. "You could hardly walk in the store on Saturday it was so jammed."

For some, anecdotal evidence didn't reveal big year-to-year changes in business. Thanksgiving weekend, with ski tourists back roaming the streets and everyone shopping with an eye on Christmas, is always a bit crazy and it was again this year.

Others could chart out their big weekend, pointing to huge gains over last year.

"We've owned the store for a year and a half and we broke our record on Saturday," Miller said.

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She was among many to lavish praise on Saturday's Sweet Treats on Mainstreet event, which lured downtown shoppers from store to store with the promise of chocolate to taste at each stop. A few of the 40 retailers that took part admitted committing to the program with a hint of skepticism, but all were quickly won over as a steady stream of patrons became a torrent of chocolate-hunting, credit-card wielding customers.

"That," Moose Mountain Trading Co. owner Jenny Wall said, "was a good idea."

Friday was better for some, and Saturday was better for others, but it was all a part of an encouraging trend for Wall and her downtown women's clothing and sweater outpost.

November, she said, has been great.

Some of that she credited to the chocolate strollers, and some to a perhaps recovering economy. She also was quick to point to a unique promotions program she started three years ago in the face of the national recession.

Her shop is doing well enough that she hasn't resorted to store-wide sales to get customers in the door. Instead, it marks down a particular style of clothing every week. "Turtle week" brought in plenty of shoppers looking for turtlenecks, she said, and she expects the next week's special, "Fringe week," to help move scarves and anything else with fringe.

She said the idea has helped create a cadre of repeat customers, and it will kick into high gear starting Dec. 13 with a 12-day campaign that leads up to Christmas offering good discounts on a different color every day.

"Our town and our shopping area doesn't really cater to Black Friday crazy, but we had really good traffic this weekend," Wall said. "We had a great time. We had lots of people and sales were just what we expected."

Shoppers were out again Sunday, browsing through the final hours of weekend deals. Straightline Outdoor Sports was still offering 20 percent off its entire store and Bushwackers Clothing was offering buy one, get one for 50 percent on everything.

The surge had come and gone, however, and while all expect business to heat up again, especially after the winter airline program kicks off in mid-December, they were thankful for the temporary relief.

"It was two weeks of 14-hour days leading up to this," Miller said. "It's been tiring, but it's the good kind of tired."

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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