Breckenridge retailers report varying business effects of Walkable Main
BRECKENRIDGE — A survey of Breckenridge businesses, conducted by the Breckenridge Tourism Office, showed that the majority of retail store owners and managers supported extending Walkable Main into September, but the results noted that restaurants within the closure are perceived to have benefited the most while retailers have not benefited as much.
Perception by business type varies, however, as some report positive summer business, which they attribute to Walkable Main, while others attribute a downturn in sales to the closure.
Rick Bly, owner of Skinny Winter Gifts, has owned the shop for 49 years and said that whenever Main Street closes to vehicles, he experiences a 20% to 40% decrease in sales. This summer, Bly said his business is down about 31%.
“While people seem to like it — it’s a good vibe and everything — I’ve never heard a cost-benefit analysis from the town as last year’s June-July versus this year’s,” Bly said Monday. “I do feel like my records over years that show the diminution of sales when the street is closed have some value.”
Bly said that while he does see some positive aspects, he thinks the traffic has become a major problem and that people from lower elevations are not physically comfortable walking up and down the length of Main Street. He also noted the lack of public restrooms available, saying passersby ask multiple times a day to use his restroom.
Sandy Struve, who owns several souvenir stores in Breckenridge — the two Arctic Attitude locations, The Christmas Store, Mountain Tees and Cabin Fever — was neutral about Walkable Main, saying that while she doesn’t believe it has hurt her businesses, she isn’t sure whether it has directly increased business. Struve said the stores are about even with last year’s summer sales.
“I don’t think it’s hurt us,” Struve said Monday. “I don’t have a problem with it. I think there’s some things they could have done a little bit better, but we’ll get through it, and if they do it next year, maybe they’ll change some stuff.”
As for changes, Struve said flowers and additional seating could be added for people to sit in the shade. She said capacity hasn’t been much of a problem because her stores are larger, accommodating more people, and lines haven’t had to be formed.
Ruby Jane Boutique Manager Linda Watts said business has been good this summer and that the store has been busier than expected. She said June sales were up compared with last year. July sales were down a bit, but she said last July was particularly busy.
“It’s just surprising that it’s going so well, but in the same breath, it’s not surprising because we had no idea what to expect during the time,” Watts said Monday. “So it’s a mixed bag of blessings, I think, that we’ve all been able to stay safe and stay healthy and still have the amount of business we’ve had.”
Watts said there has been a lot of foot traffic to the store and that people occasionally have been asked to wait outside due to capacity limits on weekends.
“I think (the closure) has helped 100% with the amount of people walking around,” Watts said. “Sometimes, it’s kind of staggering to walk outside and see how many people are out there. There’s no way all this would work if everybody was crammed onto the sidewalk.”
Watts also noted that she has seen mostly visitors in the store and that she is hopeful people will continue to come to town in the fall when they can travel more easily while working remotely.
Macy Trotter, owner of Forandre Conscious Living, originally opened her store just four days before the COVID-19 shutdown. She reopened June 1 but said the lack of window shopping while people walk down the middle of Main Street is taking a toll on retail.
“I think (the closure) is the best decision we could’ve made given the circumstances, but because of trying to socially distance people, people are walking down the street and not looking in windows,” Trotter said Monday.
Trotter said she sees people pass by who are clearly her target market but don’t always notice her store. She added that other retail shops in her building have found that they are actually busier on weekdays rather than weekends. Forandre Conscious Living was busy in June when Walkable Main started up, but traffic to the store has since slowed, Trotter said.
“The overarching theme seems to be that people have had a good July,” Breckenridge Retail Association President Kathy Christina said. “That said, it did not get them back to net zero from the closure.”
She said Walkable Main has been received positively by guests, who have reported feeling safe, and that things look solid heading into fall. As people continue to pivot to more online sales, social media, delivery, curbside pickup, even personal shopping, she said the retail association feels that the lessons learned and pivots will aid the retail community in moving forward into winter.
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