Sales Heating Up for Resort Retailers

NEW YORK — The summer shopping season is looking bright for resort retailers.

Despite rising gas prices and a still-sluggish economy, storeowners in destination areas are expecting sales gains.

According to Travelocity’s 2011 Traveler Confidence Report, 95 percent of tourist respondents said they planned to travel as much or more than last year. Similarly, AOL’s Great Big Summer Poll reported that 51 percent of the general public doesn’t expect the economy to affect their travel plans.

That is good news for footwear retailers hoping to cash in on sales from vacationers.

“We had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend. Business was great, and we’re up over last year,” said Nicole Bilzerian, co-owner of The Great Put On in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. “It’s a great start to the season for us.”

Retailers in the Hamptons also reported a strong start to the season.

Sam Edelman, who opened a pop-up shop in East Hampton, N.Y., this season, said the holiday weekend exceeded the company’s expectations.

“What happened in the store [over Memorial Day] completely proved that East Hampton is the perfect location for our brand,” Edelman said. “People are in the mood to spend, especially at the right price points.”

Stuart Weitzman also is bullish about his temporary location in East Hampton.

“We expect terrific business,” Weitzman said of his first pop-up shop, which also stocks accessories by Theodora & Callum. “When [customers] visit us this summer, they will get twice the pop.”

Sneakerology, an athletic boutique with locations in Greenvale and Manhasset, N.Y., also bowed an East Hampton store this year to lure in more resort consumers. “Hopefully, we’ll have a more upscale clientele,” said owner Gary Dworetz. “The customers here are very affluent and health conscious, so they all need sneakers for the gym and tennis court.”

Dworetz is banking on lightweight running styles from Nike, Merrell, New Balance and Saucony.

Jeffrey Goldstein, owner of Blue & Cream, which has an East Hampton location, is bullish on fashion athletic styles from Puma Black Station and men’s espadrilles from Riviera. He added that he’s expecting strong traffic, regardless of the higher cost of fuel.

“I don’t think gas prices will make a difference,” Goldstein said. “If you already own a $10 million house, the extra dollar per gallon is not going to keep you from going there.”

Higher prices at the pump may even help boost business, according to Al Miltner, owner of several Bootlegger’s Footwear Center stores throughout New Hampshire. “We’ve found that when prices spike, families won’t take the larger or longer vacation, but they’ll choose to stay more regional,” he said. “Higher gas prices aren’t necessarily a good thing for the economy, but they can raise local tourism.”

Out west, Serena Robb, owner of Shoe in Lake Tahoe, Calif., said half her sales during the summer season come from vacationers with homes in the area. Targeting a 20 percent sales increase for the season, she was hoping local events such as the Lake Tahoe Music Festival, Bluegrass Festival and Amgen Tour of California will bring in customers. “Festivals help drive traffic,” she said.

Park City, Utah-based boutique Mary Jane’s is seeking to capitalize on tourists who stay close to home. “Most of our summer business is from people coming for a weekend away or a little mini-vacation,” said owner Lori Harris.

Running Wild, an athletic retailer in Pensacola, Fla., is relying on partnerships with local triathlons this summer to help facilitate sales. The store will sponsor competitions and hold onsite product demonstrations in June and July.

After tourism in the Gulf Coast was hampered by last year’s severe oil spill, Running Wild owner Paul Epstein said his store is making up for lost time now that the beaches have been cleaned up.

“There’s been a big marketing push for our beaches, and I’m expecting a better summer than we’ve seen in years,” he said.

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