Colorado Retailers React to Wildfires

Colorado is feeling the impact of a particularly harsh wildfire season, but footwear retailers in the state said it’s too soon to tell how much business will be affected.

Near Colorado Springs, the massive Waldo Canyon fire blazed for the fourth day in a row on Wednesday, while a second fire started June 26 on the outskirts of Boulder, and other smaller fires popped up around the state.

Cathy Reed, manager of Yarid’s boutique at The Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, said there has been a steady flow of customers at her store. “People are still shopping,” she added. “This morning, as soon as we opened, we had a $1,000 sale.” Kate Spade, Stuart Weitzman and Toms are strong sellers at the store, which is part of a five-door chain, with other locations in Virginia and West Virginia, Reed said.

She added that The Broadmoor isn’t directly in the path of the fire and still has 1,500 guests booked for the July 4 holiday, but a sense of unease is still present, and her own parents were evacuated from their neighborhood in nearby Woodland Park, Colo., on Wednesday.

“We are still open and fully operating, Reed said, “[but] it seems strange because everything here is normal, but then you go 12 miles north and it’s more drastic.”

Lorrie Daniel, owner of Lang’s Shoes, also in Colorado Springs, said her store, a 57-year-old family business, has not been affected physically by the blaze, but she was evacuated from her own home on June 23. The retailer also expects her sales to be negatively impacted in an already-down season. “Many of our customers live in the evacuation zone, or they don’t come out because the smoke is so bad,” Daniel said. “The economy has been tough as it is. We didn’t need this nasty scary thing to affect us any more.”

About 100 miles north, in Boulder, Colo., JJ Wells co-owner Dana Culbertson reported a typical day of sales, despite the poor air quality causing uncomfortable conditions.

“We are not [located] where the heaviest fire activity is, so it hasn’t really impacted [customers] coming in,” added Culbertson, whose store carries women’s apparel, accessories and footwear. “Some [media outlets] are leading people to believe that Colorado is burning down around us, but that’s not really the case. Wildfires are what we deal with out here.”

Culbertson noted that her boutique’s sales have been lackluster for spring, but not because of the blaze. “Anything that is going on businesswise is more economy-related, based on what’s happening nationally vs. locally,” she said. “We’ll just ride it out and do what everybody else is doing, watching expenses and managing inventories and budgets.”

As for the rest of the season, the retailer added, “I just hope that anyone who plans to vacation out here doesn’t change their mind based on what they’re reading.”

Lorel Tate, co-owner of Two Sole Sisters, also in Boulder, echoed that sentiment. “I’m hoping that the tourists have already planned their trips here for July,” she said.

Tate added that business has been somewhat sluggish for the past several days, but blamed the slowdown on a heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring to 100 degrees.

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