In weak economy, local sales are mixed | ParkRecord.com

In weak economy, local sales are mixed

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Christa Cassidy counts on a steady stream of customers when she starts her shifts at Bunya Bunya, a women’s fashion store on Main Street.

Even with high gasoline prices and worries about the economy, Bunya Bunya attracts shoppers. People in Park City for the Triple Crown Sports softball tournament are buyers, and vacation-home owners are stopping in.

"There’s always been people in the store . . . Summer’s actually been really busy," Cassidy says, describing that sales seem better than they were last summer. "From the second you open to the second you close, there’s normally people in."

Summertime business in the Park City area, which has been ticking upward for years but still trails the ski season by a considerable margin, appears to be mixed so far. Tourism in the summer usually does not pick up until Independence Day, though, and it typically remains strong through Labor Day.

Cassidy says Bunya Bunya sells lots of dresses, priced between about $80 and $150, and Bohemian-style clothing also sells well. The store regularly clears between $2,000 and $3,000 in daily sales, she says, a solid day for the summer.

There remain concerns, though, in the area that worries about the national economy will put a damper on Park City’s summer economy, and some places in the city say they business is down. Park City has long relied on visitors from the Wasatch Front to boost summer business, but there are fears that high gas prices might stop some of them from visiting.

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Upcoming summer events include the Kimball Arts Festival in early August and the Park City Jazz Festival later that month. The events usually draw solid crowds, especially boosting hotel and restaurant business.

City Hall will not find out how much sales tax was generated in the summer for a few months, but the key ski-season months were up, says Gary Hill, who directs the local government’s budget.

Hill reports sales tax generated in January, February and March was up between 12.3 percent and 17 percent per month compared to a year earlier. Many merchants and restaurant owners were pleased with the ski season, as were the mountain resorts.

But the weak housing market has hurt some businesses dependent on homebuyers. Cindy Matsumoto, who is a co-owner of Right At Home, a furnishings store on Bonanza Drive, says sales in 2008 are down compared to previous years. July sales, though, are stronger than those in May and June, she says.

"We are definitely down from previous years. We are affected by the real estate," Matsumoto says, declining to provide details about the drop in sales at Right at Home.

Matsumoto says the store continues to sell many home accessories and one-of-a-kind items. She says customers stop by looking for good deals.

"I’m looking forward to a strong real estate market in 2009," she says. "Real estate keeps us churning."

On Main Street, meanwhile, Mike Sweeney, who closely monitors business trends on the popular shopping, dining and entertainment strip, says business owners tell him the summer’s been "a little slow." A few restaurants and art galleries are doing well, he says, but others are not.

"I guess all over the board," Sweeney says.

He says businesses in his family’s property at the lower terminal of the Town Lift are reporting mixed sales. He blames the economy and gas prices.

"It’s not super-good," Sweeney says about business. "It’s OK."

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