I am writing this letter in response to Thursday's article regarding the drafting of an ordinance to impose restrictions on "formula stores." This seems like another attempt by local government to regulate competition and provide protectionism to existing retailers that may be ultimately bad for the consumer. I own and run a business and have to compete with global companies who have huge budgets. If we don't provide the right products at the right price and compete in an effective manner, we will be out of business.
The same should hold true for the retailers in Steamboat. Many locals have benefited from the addition of the new Staples store and have been able to save time and money shopping there. The sales tax dollars generated there stay here. The Ryans have done a great job making their bookstore a destination by adding great food and a nice place to sit and meet others. I am sure they sell more books because of it and have increased their revenues. This marketplace-driven innovation is what is needed on the part of existing business people, not an ordinance that keeps others from competing and virtually guarantees inflated prices and little need for creative innovation.
When you talk with others who live here about where they shop, inevitably Denver or Silverthorne is where Steamboat residents go. It is not because they like the drive or don't want to support local merchants; it is usually because the selection and prices are much better elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands of sales tax dollars are lost each year because the current merchants don't offer what local people need. Our city is funded primarily from sales tax dollars, and we are considering ordinances that would restrict major retailers from coming into the market who can deliver more sales tax revenues.
Due to our population and location, we will always be a destination ski area. Even if we see some "formula stores" or national chain stores, people from the Front Range are not going to drive all the way to Steamboat to shop, and the character of downtown is not going to be ruined. "Formula stores" are well designed and maintained as per their corporate mandates and are almost always well-stocked, well-staffed and clean. The larger retailers recognize they need to have a large enough population base to support their store, and for most of them, we do not. Then they have to offer a good selection at the right prices and the stores need to have an effective look and atmosphere in order to compete. They don't need an ordinance to know that.
The retailers and restaurateurs who are here need to spend more time looking at improving their businesses and taking care of their local customers and less time trying to scheme up ways to keep competition out. The City Council should realize where their bread is buttered and protect the large number of consumers who vote as opposed to the small number of retailers worried about how they are going to compete.