Resort Retailers Upbeat About Winter Season

Resort retailers are having a surprisingly busy winter season so far, thanks largely to vacationers who are eager to treat themselves to boots, particularly Uggs.

And for many storeowners, huge promotions haven’t been necessary to drive sales.

Al Miltner, owner of BootLegger’s Footwear Centers, which has eight stores in New Hampshire, said sales this winter are up from last year. “We feel [the macroeconomic climate] is more stable [than it was last year],” Miltner said. “There’s a little more confidence out there.”

He said his stores generally have category promotions occurring each week, as well as a recent boot and slipper sale. Miltner added that his stores’ bestsellers have been Ugg, Muck Boots and a rainboot called Bogs Boots, which are made of rubber and neoprene for added warmth.

In Park City, Utah,  Lori Harris,  owner of women’s footwear store Mary Jane’s, recently saw a boom in sales, coming from the Sundance Film Festival. “Sundance kicks off [some of] the 10 best days of my year dollar-wise,” she said.

Harris, who stocks brands including Frye, Hunter and Ugg, has run some promotions this winter to spur sales, but the duration of them has been dependent on the weather. Park City, for example, was recently hit with 1 foot of snow overnight, prompting Harris to end a 25 percent-off sale.

“People from Los Angeles, New York [and] San Francisco never bring appropriate footwear. So we took off the sale and sold 10 pairs of boots in the first hour,” she said.

Harris added that she is feeling upbeat about the year ahead after a tough 2009.

“I feel like people are way more optimistic. We’re over the hump of being down and out,” Harris said. “Resort towns are a little bit behind what’s happening in the economy, and that’s probably why it took us a little bit longer to get hit [by the recession].”

Similarly, Renee Bajger, owner of the Leather Beggar’s Pouch in North Conway, N.H., said 2010 sales so far have been “slightly down.”

“We had a very good year last year,” Bajger said. She said November sales were “unbelievably strong” and that in early December shoppers made purchases well before the holidays. Some of the store’s bestsellers have been brands such as Dansko, Ugg and Martino.

This year, Bajger is looking to vacationers to save the day. “The fact that we are a resort town [means] we get people who want to bring home souvenirs, but something practical and necessary, such as Dansko clogs,” she said.

The storeowner expects Leather Beggar’s Pouch to see a jump in sales during February vacation weeks and this upcoming Presidents’ Day weekend. “That’s our big holiday for the season,” she said, adding that her store only discounts when “we no longer have full runs or styles that didn’t go forward that we can move before the end of the season.”

And at Goods in Breckenridge, Colo., GM Lovie Schaeffer said winter sales have been a “little bit better than last year.” The store has seen notably solid results in fashion boot brands Ugg and Manos.

Tourism also has helped drive sales. “The tourists are here; everything is good,” Schaeffer said. “The people coming to vacation are spending like normal.”

But the store also depends on local residents, who have been decreasing their spending, Schaeffer noted. “The people coming up for the day or weekend are not there,” she said. “It’s not as bad for everyone else as it is for the locals.”

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