Sundance sales slip on Main Street as some businesses suffer 20% drop
Blaire Isleib, one of the owners of Flight Boutique, has watched the Sundance Film Festival crowds as they moved past the Main Street clothing store, only some stopping in to shop.
Business at Flight Boutique during Sundance fell in 2019 and the results were similar this year, she said.
“Big drop-off this year and last,” she said on Thursday, as Sundance entered the final days of the festival, adding, “It’s kind of rough because we order a lot for it. Now we’re stuck with extra inventory.”
Sundance brings some of the largest crowds of the year to Main Street as large numbers of film lovers, celebrity gawkers and others head to the shopping, dining and entertainment strip. The Main Street core is one of the places with lots of the festival hubbub, but sales at the stores have long been mixed during Sundance as the crowds have proven over the years not to be heavy shoppers.
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Some businesses opt to enter into temporary leases with corporate interests seeking the visibility of Main Street, deciding that the leases could be more lucrative than remaining open for the festival.
Flight Boutique chooses to continue to operate as normal during Sundance. It is essentially located midway along Main Street, and large crowds were seen along that section of Main Street through the opening days of Sundance.
Isleib also said the setup of Sundance, which impacts Main Street for several days prior to the opening day, and the teardown hurts sales. She said Sundance remains a solid week for sales, but it is not as good as spring break or the period between Christmas and New Year’s.
“We kind of bank on that money,” she said.
The anecdotal reports of a drop in business along Main Street started circulating as the opening weekend ended. The first four days of Sundance — from the first Thursday until the first Sunday — are normally the busiest of the festival. The crowds on Main Street appeared to be solid at many points during the first four days, but it is difficult to gauge the sales until numbers are compiled well afterward.
The Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents the interests of businesses on Main Street or just off the street, also reported anecdotal evidence of a drop in sales. Alison Kuhlow, the executive director, said the slump was across sectors, including restaurants, retailers and galleries.
“Business-wise, we are seeing a slow Sundance,” Kuhlow said.
She said she spoke to approximately 15 businesses during Sundance, finding sales have generally dropped between 5% and 20% from the previous year. The businesses are inquiring whether the Sundance crowds also dropped this year, she said.
“No one’s afraid they’re not going to make their rent,” Kuhlow said.
Economic data covering the festival period will not be available for months. Sales-tax figures will eventually help provide some clarity while Sundance itself commissions an annual report detailing the overall economic impact of the festival. The event in 2019 generated $182.5 million in economic impact.
“Is Sundance leveling off and will always be like that,” Kuhlow said about the anecdotal numbers in 2020. “I don’t know.”
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Park City has hired two deputy city managers, tapping a former high-ranking Sundance Film Festival official for one of the posts and a onetime top staffer in the Moab municipal government for the other.