Sales down during Saturn race, some merchants say |

Sales down during Saturn race, some merchants say

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Spectators during the Saturn Cycling Classic race in Breckenridge Saturday turned their backs – and their wallets – on local businesses, with some retailers saying business was off by up to 50 percent.

But most who were interviewed said they thought the race was an investment in the future and that people who had a good time this weekend will come back in the future.

“Retail’s down because of the event, but it’s always down when you have events like that,” said Marti Lessow, owner of Marti’s for Kids. “I’m 100 percent behind those events. People enjoyed the event, they tell their friends, “Hey, we had a great time in Breckenridge; let’s go back.’ The dividends come back.”

“The race was really cool,” said Shirt Off My Back sales associate Walt Manis, adding that sales were down Saturday. “It’ll bring recognition to the city, and it brings people here.”

Restaurant owners, particularly those with decks from which people could watch the race or establishments where people could grab a couple beers in between races, saw a brisk business.

“We were very busy during the races; we were slammed; we had a line out the door,” said Ryan Bailey, a waiter at the Horseshoe II. “As soon as the race ended, we were empty. We had a good bar crowd, a lot of people who wanted to sit on the deck and eat and view the finish line.”

It was the retail sector that seemed to be hit hardest.

Scott Magnuson, owner of Creatures Great and Small, said his business was off 35 to 40 percent compared to other Saturdays.

“And I think a lot of people were off more than that,” he said. “We can look at our books: Saturday, Saturday, Saturday and then boom, it drops. It must have cost the town in sales tax revenue that day; it certainly cost the merchants. We should have had a much better day. But we sort of anticipated it from past years.”

Actual sales tax revenue numbers for Saturday are not yet available.

He and others said they weren’t sure how much merchants benefit from events that require the streets to be closed.

“It’s hard to measure,” he said. “A marketing guy would say, “Yeah, that’s true.’ I’m all for the races, but closing down the street on a huge weekend for retailers; that’s a tough one to swallow.”

Len Pettyjohn, race director with Saturn, said he believes the event will pay off for the town.

“As a merchant, you look in your till at the end of the day and say, “We had a good day or a bad day,'” Pettyjohn said. “You don’t have any way to assess how it’ll be six months, a year down the road.”

Television coverage this year was five times that of last year’s, he said, and the number of viewers is expected to total 100 million.

“That kind of stuff is invaluable,” Pettyjohn said. “The media return is unbelievable. People are saying, “I have to see this; this is the hardest race in the world.'”

Colorado State Patrol troopers had one complaint, from someone on Highway 24 who hadn’t heard about the road closures and was delayed. Pettyjohn said that to get only one complaint for an event this large is “unprecedented.”

Magnuson was dismayed nevertheless.

“We heard nothing but negative comments all day long,” he said. “We had people coming in saying how angry they were. They couldn’t find a place to park; I heard people say, “Let’s go to Frisco and have lunch; it’s too crowded and noisy here.'”

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