Park City pedestrian days benefit just a slight majority of Main Street businesses
The registers are regularly ringing at some Main Street businesses on the Sunday pedestrian days, but some of the others are not enjoying the same sales on days that are designed to provide a boost amid a difficult summer for tourism as the novel coronavirus continues to spread.
The Sunday pedestrian days, debuting this year, are one of the key steps in a broad recovery plan drafted by the organization that represents businesses on Main Street and those just off the street. But the Historic Park City Alliance this week released results of a nonscientific survey of businesses that essentially show an even split between places that say the pedestrian days have resulted in an increase in sales and those that say the days have not led to better sales numbers.
According to the Historic Park City Alliance survey, 50.7% of the businesses attributed an increase in sales to the pedestrian days while 49.3% did not attribute a sales increase to the days. The results are based on 67 responses, described by the organization as a high rate of response for a survey. The survey was posted online for approximately five days ending on July 20, capturing the period after the Independence Day weekend.
“It is benefiting some. It’s helping them on Sundays,” said Alison Kuhlow, the executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance.
The survey results were presented to Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council at a meeting on Tuesday as the elected officials received a briefing about the pedestrian days. The mayor and City Council did not spend extensive time on the survey results, but the numbers provide intriguing information as the pedestrian days reach the end of the summer and into the fall. Kuhlow said the Historic Park City Alliance sees the 50.7% mark of businesses that attribute a sales increase to the pedestrian days as part of the reasoning for continuing the days.
The Historic Park City Alliance did not tally the results by industry. Kuhlow, though, said she has heard from representatives from shops and restaurants who would have split their votes regarding the survey question, meaning there is a broad range of opinions even within the same industry. She said the results are “hard to interpret.”
The survey also showed there is sector diversity among the businesses that are participating in some fashion in the pedestrian days. The numbers show 43% of those participating are restaurants, followed by 36% that are retailers. Galleries account for 9% while cafes and unspecified sorts of activities each account for 5%, followed by real estate firms at 2%.
The Historic Park City Alliance and Park City leaders devised the pedestrian days as the summer was approaching and amid concerns about coronavirus-forced cancellations on the special-event calendar. The special events annually draw large crowds to Main Street in the summer and fall, providing an important boost to sales. The cancellations included the Park Silly Sunday Market, the Tour of Utah bicycling race and the Park City Kimball Arts Festival. The Miners Day celebrations have also since been canceled. The pedestrian days are meant to create an attractive environment that provides space for social distancing. There was concern the Main Street sidewalks could not offer the extra space for social distancing. The businesses would benefit as people spent time strolling the street, the thinking went.
The pedestrian days have especially been popular on holiday weekends. The crowds on those days have appeared to be the largest since the ski season ended with the early closures of Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort as part of the efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. There have been reports, though, that the sales were mixed even on the busiest of the pedestrian days.
Kuhlow offered one theory as a possibility as she explained the close split in the responses regarding the increased sales, noting what is believed to be a trend this summer of visitors staying in Park City for extended periods rather than arriving for short stays or day trips. If visitors are staying longer than is typical, they are likely not dining at restaurants as often as a short-term visitor, she said. They also might not be shopping on Main Street like someone in Park City for a short stay or a day would, she said.
“There’s just a change in the tourism pattern,” she said.
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City Hall in December posted strong sales-tax numbers, powering past projections and nearly equaling the figure from the same month in the previous year, as Park City continued to beat expectations amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.