Holiday sales up in Lone Tree
Business growth, added employees among reasons for boost
The holidays were happy for most Lone Tree retailers; a fact they hope is part of a long, steady upward trend.
Local retailers point to a variety of reasons for strong sales, including deep markdowns, a shortened shopping season, growing day-worker population and a positive shift in the city's retail landscape.
"We definitely saw a dramatic increase in business over holiday seasons in the past," said Rio Grande restaurant manager Susan O'Meara. "We had been about 12 to 13 percent up every month coming into the holiday season, and we were 25 percent up from December last year. It was fantastic."
The city's retail giant, Park Meadows shopping center, also saw brisk business and general manager Pamela Schenk-Kelly called the season "extremely positive."
November sales - a solid indicator of the season to come - were up more than expected, she said, adding that it came as a pleasant surprise with Thanksgiving coming a week later than normal, leading to less traditional holiday shopping time.
Cold temperatures in early December saw a dip in traffic, she added, but sales "were ahead of plan and very strong" from Dec. 15 through New Year's Eve.
The highest Park Meadows traffic counts were recorded one day after Christmas, on Dec. 26. That wasn't a surprise to Kelly, who's managed the 17-year-old mall from its opening day.
"The holiday season really does run through the week of New Year's," she said. "People give and use gift cards or money they got for Christmas.
Around the corner on Park Meadows Drive, the locally owned For Every Season gift shop also saw solid sales.
"It was good, not gangbusters," said 10-year storeowner Art Shiota. "We're satisfied with what occurred. The last four years has been sort of down, so we're just hoping this year will start coming up. We're not quite out of it, but it's not going the other way, which is good."
National statistics suggest slowly rising consumer confidence. Holiday sales increased 2.7 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to ShopperTrak: A small gain in a holiday shopping season a full six days shorter than in 2012.
Those figures aside, O'Meara points to several reasons for the increase specific to Lone Tree. Among them: The holiday debut of some blockbuster movies at neighboring United Artist theaters, the early December opening of nearby Kaiser Permanente and the addition of Cabela's and the Mellow Mushroom restaurant.
Kaiser brought 300 new jobs to Lone Tree, many of whom drove down Park Meadows Drive to dine and celebrate the holidays.
"We were gangbusters with office parties, happy hours, just a lot of business social life coming to our restaurant," O'Meara said.
The July opening of a colorful pizza restaurant at the entrance to the Entertainment District was anything but a detractor from the other eateries there, O'Meara said.
"I want to say that I think the additional of Mellow Mushroom to our block - that beautiful big, blue-and-orange building on the corner - has really helped," she said. "It's putting it back into people's minds that this is a whole other area. The additional traffic, marketing and PR should really elevate all of the businesses, and we've definitely seen that."
While the city doesn't yet have December sales tax figures, Lone Tree's leaders are buoyed by positive anecdotal reports, a resurging real estate market and new businesses.
"Strong retail sales and the strong residential real estate market are both good indicators of a robust economy, but for us, the best measure of the growing economy is the number of new primary jobs coming to Lone Tree and nearby communities," city manager Seth Hoffman said.
"Increases in retail sales and property values will only occur if primary employment stays strong, which is why we invest so much of our time and resources in developing infrastructure that attracts and retains those employers."