Bridge impacts prompt incentives
With reports of lagging sales in Glenwood Springs as the three-month Grand Avenue bridge closure takes hold, some organizations are stepping up efforts to lure customers into area shops and restaurants.
A rough summer and fall for retail sales and dining was expected because of bridge construction and the Colorado 82 detour. But the summer got off to an inauspicious start in June.
According to the city’s sales tax report for the month, sales were down nearly 3.7 percent compared with June 2016.
For the year to date, sales tax receipts are trending barely ahead of last year, by just 0.53 percent, with July and August still to be reported. And the more difficult months related to the bridge closure and traffic snarls lie ahead.
On the positive side, tourism numbers held steady through the early part of the summer. The city’s special accommodations tax on overnight stays was up 10.1 percent in June, and for the year to date is running about 6.2 percent ahead of 2016.
Regular sales taxes paid on overnight stays are also up 7 percent for the year, and lodges reporting to the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association said they were 88 percent occupied during July. That’s about the same occupancy as Glenwood lodges see in a normal July.
“Our tourists are still coming, and we’re hearing from a number of tourist-related businesses that things are up, or at least continuing on the same pace,” said Lisa Langer, vice president of tourism marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
“I’ve not heard of any reservations being canceled because of the construction, and people are savvy enough to know that there is going to be construction in the summer wherever they travel,” Langer said.
The typical Glenwood visitor also isn’t necessarily out on the city streets stuck in traffic.
“A lot of our visitors park their car at the hotel and walk, rent a bike or ride the bus around town,” she said.
That steady flow of visitors has helped keep restaurants busy for the most part, but may not be enough to hold general retail sales steady.
For the year through June, sales in several retail categories that more typically define the local shopper are down. That includes building materials and supplies, which are down more than 5 percent; automobile sales, servicing and parts, down 8 percent; food sales, down almost 2 percent; and the catch-all miscellaneous retail category that takes in liquor stores, flower shops, jewelry stores and sporting goods, down almost 40 percent.
Some businesses, along with the chamber, are offering various incentives to keep area residents coming to Glenwood to do their shopping and eat out during the bridge closure.
When the bridge closed and the detour went into effect on Aug. 14, the chamber launched its “Treasure Hunt 2017: A Bridge to Riches” campaign to try to lure people into the downtown core in particular.
The way it works, is people are encouraged to hunt down a weekly clue that leads them over the course of the 12-week detour period to the ultimate treasure, a prize package worth over $1,000. Details are at glenwoodchamber.com/treasure.
Merchants are participating by putting up the prizes and offering deals for people to stop in and shop, eat or drink while out hunting for clues, chamber President and CEO Marianne Virgili said during a recent meeting between downtown business owners and bridge project officials.
Alpine Bank decided to help as well.
Originally, the bank had wanted to enter people who show a local receipt into a weekly prize drawing, but banking rules wouldn’t allow that, explained Jay Rickstrew, regional president for Alpine.
Instead, bank officers are taking turns going out to lunch each day during the workweek and randomly picking up a lucky customer’s tab.
“This was something we thought we could do pretty quick and easy to help keep people in Glenwood, or get them to come here to shop and eat,” Rickstrew said.
Added Kate Collins of Write Brain West, which helps with Alpine Bank marketing, “We want to send a message that all of Glenwood is open for business.”
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Sales tax revenue in Glenwood Springs picked up by 11.3% for the first two months of the year, according to the latest city sales tax reports.