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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Dec 31, 2003 - Jan 6, 2004


Ketchum retailers
report strong
Christmas sales

Tourist influx helps offset slow off-season

"I think it’s going to be a good winter. We’ve got a lot of momentum."

KATE ROSSO, The Elephant’s Perch co-owner

Express Staff Writer

The Ketchum-Sun Valley tourist economy appears to be in the midst of a full-fledged recovery.

A contingent of Ketchum merchants this week reported that sales figures during the four-week period preceding Christmas surged over those recorded last year, in some cases by significant amounts.

"We did really well. Business was great," said Bob Gordon, owner and manager of Formula Sports. "Christmas sales are up about 10 percent over last year."

Gordon said business at his Main Street ski and outdoor sports store was generally slow in the three weeks following Thanksgiving. However, an influx of tourists to the Wood River Valley one week before Christmas had an immediate impact on sales.

"On the 20th, it all just took off," Gordon said, noting that many customers this season are tending to buy so-called "add-on purchases," purchases made in addition to a single, primary item, such as skis.

Kate Rosso, co-owner of The Elephant’s Perch sporting goods store, said her business experienced strong sales throughout the entire month of December. "Sales have been really good. Really strong," she said. "They definitely started earlier than last year."

Rosso said she anticipates that December sales at the mountain sports specialty store should eclipse those of December 2002 by at least 10 percent. She noted that sales for the first two weeks of this month exceeded those of last December by approximately 30 percent.

"We’re pleased. We’ve been selling everything. We had a lot of local shoppers in early December, and after the 20th it was mainly tourists."

Rosso said she noticed that shoppers this month tended to be "more free with their money" than last year.

Debbie Burns, owner of Boca Mountain clothing store, said sales at her business will likely be up 30 percent for the 2003 calendar year, including an increase in December sales. The growth, she said, comes despite a slow autumn off-season.

Burns said she also experienced slow sales in early December and quickly gained ground the week before Christmas. "Our per-person sales were doubled," she said. "What was a $500 sale last year was typically a $1,000 sale this year."

Ketchum’s retailers—most of whom rely heavily on December sales—certainly benefited from a massive influx of tourists and part-time residents that arrived prior to Christmas Day. The Ketchum-Sun Valley Chamber and Visitors Bureau reported that 89 percent of the region’s hotel rooms and vacation rentals would be occupied the weekend after Christmas.

Indeed, Sun Valley Resort, the area’s largest attraction, reported that it had rented approximately 450 rooms throughout the holiday period extending through New Year’s Day. The resort typically carries an inventory of about 500 rooms.

Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley director of sales and marketing, said skier counts throughout Christmas week were strong, but were off somewhat on days during which winter snowstorms were passing through.

"We had about 3,000 people at our Christmas Eve celebrations, despite the heavy snow," Sibbach said.

Carol Knight, owner and manager of The Toy Store, said her business definitely benefited from the surge of shopping visitors in the Ketchum area on Christmas Eve. "Since the tourists came to town, things have been going fine," Knight said. "Our 24th was really big, and sales have been strong after Christmas, too."

Ketchum restaurants also seem to be cashing in over the holiday peak period. Tim Bohlin, owner of Bob Dog Pizza & Pit BBQ, said his restaurant recorded its two best sales days ever on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28.

"I would say we’re definitely doing 30 percent to 40 percent more sales than last year," he said.

The strong Christmas sales in Ketchum will undoubtedly be appreciated by city officials, who rely on local option taxes for approximately one-quarter of the city’s annual revenue. Ketchum LOT receipts—which have generally not met expectations the last two years as traveler numbers dipped—were down by approximately 1 percent in October and November when compared to the same months in 2002.

Gordon said he believes the strong pre-Christmas sales could be a sign of better times to come. "I think the economy is looking a little bit better."

Rosso concurred. "I think it’s going to be a good winter," she said. "We’ve got a lot of momentum."



City of Ketchum

Formula Sports


Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.