Survey suggests Main Street businesses up and down over Sundance | ParkRecord.com

Survey suggests Main Street businesses up and down over Sundance

Gina Barker, The Park Record

Main Street Survey Responses

Business was

First Weekend:

UP 11% NORMAL 27% DOWN 31%

Mid-Week:

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UP 14% NORMAL 25% DOWN 37%

Second Weekend:

UP 16% NORMAL 31% DOWN 41%

Parking Opinions

5 Responders felt:

spaces should have opened up during the second half, but eliminated for the final weekend to help traffic flow.

22 Responders felt:

parking should have opened up on both sides of the street after the first weekend.

24 Responders felt:

parking should have opened up on one side of the street after the first weekend.

13 Responders felt:

it worked well. Traffic moved smoothly and drop-offs in front of businesses took place.

Up, down and flat, Main Street businesses in Park City had mixed reviews on their own success in sales during this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In a survey the Historic Park City Alliance asked businesses to respond to, a majority of respondents answered normal to below average sales.

"It was very strange," said Mike Ryan, owner of Main Street’s Elegante. "The last two Sundance years had been really good, but this year seemed different. The first weekend was crowded, but it was an odd array of people, a different crowd than what we’ve seen in the past."

Speculation on the drop in sales among some businesses varied. Was it snow? Attendance at the festival? Fewer unsponsored events running alongside the official festival?

Historic Park City Alliance Executive Director Alison Butz set to work to figure out what was behind the ups and downs for merchants on Main Street. She sent a voluntary survey to more than 200 merchants and received responses from roughly 25 percent.

"What is the relationship between snow and Sundance?" Butz said. "Perhaps there is a stronger correlation and because of the lack of snow, the activity was less."

"In the end, this year was a wash," she added about business activity.

While businesses are trying to work out what happened during the film festival weeks, the Sundance Institute saw a bump in the number of ticket sales.

"We are preparing an economic impact report that will not be available until early May," a Sundance spokesperson said, "but we estimate that overall Sundance Film Festival ticket sales are up by 11 percent."

While some businesses saw a significant drop in sales, others did not. Park City Clothing Company owner Doug Hollinger said he believes the major snow storm the first weekend of the festival put his sales through the roof.

"We had a phenomenal weekend with the bad weather," Hollinger said. "We sold footwear, gloves and jackets, all the warm weather stuff. It was a blessing."

Timberland had to overnight boots after the store completely sold out of ladies boots. Yet even with the weather on his side, Hollinger said something did feel different about the foot traffic he saw.

"It seemed like there were fewer people, maybe they were more subdued," Hollinger said. "I would say it was a younger crowd.

"Sundance feels less and less corporate. Maybe we’re not seeing as many big sponsors as before."

Stephanie Stewart, a sales representative for Burns Cowboy Shop, said even though business managed to match sales from last year, the number of people coming in seemed to be down.

"It was kind of eerie," she said. "The foot traffic was not the same."

"I’ve been at the store for four years and typically you can’t move in here during Sundance. This year, there were spells where no one was in the store."

Concerns among Main Street businesses include increased city regulations such as parking restrictions, where no parking was allowed on Main Street through the festival and that nearby parking options were believed to be too expensive.

"Each year there is a layer of new regulations," Butz said. "Regulations are always addressing legitimate concerns, we have layered so many restrictions on the area that we have to ask if it’s now impeding people.

"We don’t want people not to come to Main Street."

Butz plans to meet with city council members and the Sundance Institute to talk about policies over festival weeks that businesses fear may hinder more than help.

"Sundance gives us so much exposure, nationally and internationally," Butz said. "We benefit year round. We certainly don’t want to get rid of the festival, but we do want to figure out how we can continue to enhance the benefit for everyone."