Lack of participation kills business index experiment
BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge town and resort chamber officials are killing the fledgling Breckenridge Business Index because it failed to attract enough participants.
The index was designed to determine how well sales fared on certain weekends and to give town officials a better idea of how events affect the bottom line.
Currently, the only way the town can gauge the effectiveness of an event is to wait six weeks until the state returns sales tax revenues to the town. That lag time has made it difficult for Breckenridge Resort Chamber (BRC) and town officials to evaluate events and plan for the future.
Council members debated in March whether the information from such reports would be of any benefit, particularly if the data later failed to correlate with state figures.
Mayor Sam Mamula noted that many longtime merchants and restaurateurs have years of such data collected and use it to schedule employees during peak times and predict how sales will go during different times of the year.
The index put together this summer was modeled on one from Vail. Vail officials said they learned five lessons from their attempt to gather such data.
Chief among them was merchant participation is important. Of the 75 businesses that agreed to participate, an average of 68 – and not always the same ones – actually have stuck with it.
Another lesson Vail officials learned was, despite the goal to get sales statistics sooner, it still takes two to three weeks to get the information from merchants, often after frequent reminders.
Breckenridge officials faced those two problems as well – only on a larger scale.
Fewer than a dozen merchants reported their gross sales on any of the given weekends, and even fewer were able to submit sales information for past years. They cited time constraints, employee turnover and an unwillingness to share sales numbers with the town – even if they were promised anonymity – as reasons for not participating. Some said they didn’t know about the program.
Thus, the information collected was statistically invalid, said town finance director Judy Ferris.
“If we feel this isn’t working, it’s not fair to go to the business community and ask them to participate,” Mamula said during a town work session this week.
John Balma, owner of Good’s, said he was disappointed people didn’t participate.
“I thought it was a great idea,” he said. “I’m not sure why people wouldn’t participate, if they were just worried about their information or what. It would have provided immediate feedback. S I hate to see it go away.”
Ferris said she will conduct the last three indices as planned before halting the experimental project.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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