Photo by Tom Ross
KImberly Stenerson, left, and Andra Hansen steam and shape customers’ cowboy hats and wrap gift boxes at F.M. Light and Sons on Friday. Although some say it signals the start of the holiday shopping season, Steamboat retailers don’t see the influx of bargain shoppers on Black Friday that metro areas often experience.
Steamboat Springs Retailers in Steamboat Springs have another term for Black Friday — they call it Light up the Night.
The Friday after Thanksgiving is when Mainstreet Steamboat Springs hosts Light Up the Night at 6 p.m. on the Routt County Courthouse lawn. Many of the Whos in Whoville will turn out to see the lights on the giant evergreen trees turned on.
They’ll go to enjoy cookies, sip hot cocoa and scramble for pingpong balls good for gift certificates and small gift items at local merchants.
“It’s also the first opportunity people have to sign up for a $1,000 gift certificate,” Jan Lomas said.
When shoppers throng the giant chain retailers in Denver the day after Thanksgiving, most Steamboat storeowners will be looking forward to a good sales day that marks the beginning of the holiday season. But it won’t be a day that makes or breaks local retailers.
Lomas, who has been involved in the Artisans Market of Steamboat for 28 years and has owned it for the past nine years, said the Friday after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holidays for some of her customers. But it’s not the bargain that blowout shoppers are seeking along the Front Range. Her merchandise, created by Colorado artists and crafts people, doesn’t have large markups built into it to begin with, making large holiday markdowns infeasible.
“I get some local people who come shop because it’s traditional,” Lomas said. “It’s kind of a nice bump for us after a long dry spell, and it gets people thinking about their holiday shopping.”
Murray Selleck, of Ski Haus, shared Lomas’ outlook about Nov. 27 shopping.
“As far as anything like a metro Black Friday, I don’t think it’s a Steamboat event,” Selleck said. “We don’t see a big spike on that Friday. It’s not mayhem. But post-Thanksgiving does create a different mindset. The holidays are here, and Christmas will be here before you know it.”
Just as Steamboat families likely are operating on a budget this winter, outdoor equipment manufacturers and sporting goods retailers such as Ski Haus are watching their open-to-buy, Selleck said.
That’s a retailing term for “budget.” Selleck does the Nordic equipment buying for Ski Haus and considered his open-to-buy carefully in January when he began placing orders for ski season 2009-10.
“I’ve been calling manufacturers for special orders, and the manufacturers are incredibly tight on their inventory,” Selleck said.
Jenny Wall, of Moose Mountain Trading Co., said the major holiday shopping season for her business still is a few weeks away.
“I know the day after Thanksgiving is the traditional kickoff day, and I gotta tell you, things don’t really start off until Dec. 15 when the jets bring the second homeowners,” she said. “Their arrival stirs up everything in town.”
In the meantime, she said, she cultivates a loyal customer base of locals by kaboodling with them. That’s right: kaboodling — the art of cheerful conversation. Wall is an expert and uses her kaboodling skills to gently encourage transactions.
On Friday, she had just hung up the phone with a customer who had first gotten in touch through her Web page.
The man owns a building contracting business in Ohio and wanted to order 125 stuffed moose like the ones on Moose Mountain’s Web page. He intended to give them to clients as gifts because they evoke his logo.
Wall closed the deal and got back on the phone to make arrangements with the manufacturer.
More typically, Moose Mountain ships fine Scandinavian sweaters to customers across the country and beyond the United States.
Web sales have grown so dramatically at Moose Mountain this fall, Wall said, she has put a full-time employee on the case.
“In September 2008, we had 44 Internet orders, and this September we had 144,” Wall said. “In October, our dollar volume from Internet sales doubled year over year, and November is also on track to double. You know, Black Friday is followed by Black Monday. It’s unofficially the biggest day for online shopping.”
One of her favorite things about her store’s Internet success, Wall said, is that it gives her more time to kaboodle with her local customers who come into the store on the day after Thanksgiving.