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Tahoe attracts brand stores

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

In Lake Tahoe, there’s no need to visit a sports superstore to buy goods from some of the prime names in outdoors clothing.

The North Face and Patagonia, labels that are popular all over the U.S., have opened their own stores in Heavenly Village, the mountain resort’s base area, close to the rest of the happening spots on the South Shore of the lake.

They only sell lines made by the company, offering visitors and people who live there an alternative to the bigger stores that offer the wares of lots of different brands.

Some Parkites who recently visited the Lake Tahoe region as part of City Hall’s annual trip to other mountain resorts likely noticed the stores but they did not seem to interest many of the Park City people on the trip.

But The North Face and Patagonia stores are competing with the other sporting-good sellers in Lake Tahoe and, although there has not been an influx of similar businesses opening in Park City, the stores represent another marketing and sales strategy for the companies.

"We are offering a wider selection of product at the same discount pricing. It benefits tourists and locals alike," says Adam Turner, the Western regional marketing manager for Denver-based Specialty Sports Venture, the firm that opened The North Face and Patagonia stores.

He calls them ‘dealer stores’ and says that The North Face debuted in Lake Tahoe in winter 2004 and the Patagonia store opened in summer 2003. Turner says they have been successful and that he has similar stores in other mountain resorts like Vail and Breckenridge, both in Colorado.

Turner says his firm does not plan to open similar stores in Park City, though, even as he says that they are becoming a trend. The North Face in Lake Tahoe sells lots of boots, off-trail running shoes, sandals and casual wear for the outdoors, he says. The Patagonia store sells more rugged apparel and customers are not as interested in fashionable items, he says.

He says that customers, especially those who are visiting, like the selection compared to what they see in outdoors stores where they live. More mundane goods can be bought at home, Turner says.

"They figure they can get the discount items down off the hill," Turner says.

No influx in Park City

In Park City, there are a few outdoor-ware chains, such as the Quiksilver Boardriders Club, which is on Main Street, but there has not been an influx of others, like The North Face or Patagonia.

Jack Walzer, the general manager of Jans Ltd., the corporate umbrella of 10 sporting-goods stores in the Park City area, including Jans Mountain Outfitters, says he does not expect that a company like The North Face would open a store in Park City because the label already sells well.

The North Face, he says, "would be shooting themselves in the foot" by opening a Park City location, Walzer says.

"They’ve got some good distribution here already," he says.

If a North Face store were to open, Walzer says Jans would reconsider stocking the brand.

"Why would we support a company that comes in and starts to compete with us," Walzer says.

Meanwhile, Rodman Jordan, the leader of the efforts to reshape the North of Main district, centered along Bonanza Drive, into a shopping and dining destination, says he is not wooing stores like those in Lake Tahoe.

Jordan has long said that he wants the district, sometimes called NoMa, to feature boutiques and nationally known brands, but says that he envisions labels like Calvin Klein, not The North Face.

"I would be more interested to foster success of Cole Sport or Jans," Jordan says, referring to another of Park City’s well-known sporting-goods stores.

Jordan, though, concedes that the market will determine which stores open as retail space in NoMa is developed. He says that if a nationally known line wants to open a smaller store, perhaps less than 2,000 square feet, they might look at NoMa. The store sizes, Jordan says, would limit the stock and make them less competitive with other stores like Jans.

Other sporting-good stores in Lake Tahoe have adjusted to the arrival of places like Patagonia and The North Face. Dana Jo Turvey, who manages Tahoe Sports Ltd., which has two stores on the South Shore of the lake, says the store’s buyers will use a different strategy when stocking the stores.

"We will not spend as much with the company if there is a company store the next block over," she says.

Turvey says that Tahoe Sports stopped selling Patagonia goods when the company’s store opened but her store continues to stock products from The North Face.

"North Face is a big enough seller we continue to sell it," she says.

She says she has heard that Quicksilver might open a store, influencing her not to carry the brand starting in summer 2007. not carrying as much Quicksilver products and dropping Patagonia, Turvey says Tahoe Sports is able to add other lines it did not carry before.

"It’s more going with your gut instinct of what you want to sell in the store," she says.

Another retailer competing with the The North Face and Patagonia, Tahoe Boot ‘N’ Bike Works, sees itself as offering goods and services that national companies do not. Travis Shindelbower, who works at Tahoe Boot ‘N’ Bike Works, says the store has been selling less outerwear and more skis and boots. It is finding other brands to sell as well, he says.

"You have to find your own personal niche. There are a lot of niches the corporate structure won’t be able to fill," he says, adding, "It puts pressure on you to find what they don’t have."


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