Summer sales have been as hot as a sunny sidewalk so far in downtown Traverse City, as the North is leading the state in retail improvement by at least one measure.
Most downtown businesses have seen a jump in customers over last summer, attributing this summer’s spike to an array of festivals, lots of hot weather, and the state’s tourism promotion campaign.
“I don’t care if it’s 90 degrees or if it’s a cloudy day. They’re downtown,” says Bill Golden, co-owner of Golden Shoes. “We’re up significantly this summer from last year, and last year was the best summer ever up to that point.”
Retail figures have improved throughout the state, and the North has seen the biggest growth, with two-thirds of businesses reporting an increase, Tom Scott, senior vice president of the Michigan Retailers Association, tells The Ticker.
Bill Golden credits the state’s Pure Michigan tourism marketing campaign more than anything else.
“Today, it was someone from Delaware and two days ago it was Sacramento,” he says. “They said, ‘We came because we saw a Pure Michigan ad’, so I hope the legislators realize what they have going here.”
The National Cherry Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival have helped businesses, though the events affect businesses differently, says Cory Smith, manager of Backcountry Outfitters.
“We do better during the Film Festival than during Cherry Festival,” he says. Cherry Fest attracts a lot of families from out of town, he says, but the Film Fest brings in more local people – Backcountry’s main clientele.
Holly Moore, who owns a vintage clothing booth at Wilson’s Antiques, says she also experienced a major boom during Film Festival week, but noticed bigger crowds and bigger sales overall this summer.
Nifty Things gifts has had an “excellent summer,” says general manager Kathy Trilla.
She also mentioned Pure Michigan, as well as national attention last year when the audience of ABC’s Good Morning America rated Sleeping Bear Dunes the most beautiful place in the nation.
And she credits the store’s decision to stay open later into the evening.
“A lot of people are on their boat all day and then come downtown in the evening to eat and shop.”
There are some exceptions to the upbeat news.
Jamie Roster, owner of the Cherry Stop, says sales have been flat for the store.
“We’ve seen a lot of traffic this summer, but that hasn’t necessarily translated into increased sales,” she says.
She blames high cherry prices. Warm weather in March spurred early blossoms that were killed by later frosts, so a local cherry crop was practically non-existent. The resulting high cherry prices forced Cherry Stop to pass those prices on in its dried cherries, jams, salsas and many other food products.
But the business offers other things, which are helping make up for decreased cherry product sales.
“There’s been an uptick in wine sales, and our gift items are doing well,” she says.
The Bookie Joint used book store also is doing better than last year, though owner Jann Norton says it’s still suffering somewhat from the popularity of e-books. Nevertheless, she says, people are rediscovering the advantages of paper books – at least where a used book store is concerned: “People have come in and said, ‘I was just going to download this book for $18, and you have it for $7!’”