All signs point to optimism

After another difficult year, Grand Valley leaders believe the coming Holiday season will be a make, not a break, for local businesses.

Diane Schwenke
Diane Schwenke, GJ Chamber

Holiday shopping really comes down to one thing.” says Diane Schwenke, President and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, “And that is consumer confidence.” Schwenke points to several factors in the Grand Valley that allude to a growing confidence for the area such as the unemployment rate that continues to fall in Mesa County, the recent upticks in the energy industry, the steadying of our manufacturing base along with a lot of activity in the retail sector above 2010.

Debbie Kovalik of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau echoes Schwenke’s sentiment. “Just as we had last year, the Grand Valley is adding a big retail name along with other activity that enhance its reputation as a regional hub for consumer activity.” says Kovalik, “The addition of American Furniture Warehouse, the new ownership at Powderhorn Resort and the addition of 200 more hotel rooms all are great indicators not only for this Holiday season, but for our area’s future in general.”

As far as the retail sector is concerned, American Furniture Warehouse is the focal addition to the community that will help across all sectors. Both Kovalik and Schwenke point to the opening of Cabela’s in 2010 as a prime example. “Cabela’s is a store that has a reach well beyond the county lines,” says Kovalik, “And we see the same thing with American Furniture Warehouse in terms of its placement as a regional jumping off point well into Utah and other areas that are linked regionally to the Grand Valley.” Kovalik points to the company’s already frequent trucks that run delivery routes into Utah from other store locations which will now be serviced through the new Grand Junction store along with deliveries from online purchases outside our area.

Schwenke agrees and adds another benefit to the picture. “Cabela’s and American Furniture are both great destination stores with reaches of 300-500 miles, maybe even beyond,” Schwenke adds, “But now perhaps instead of Cabela’s attracting one type of shopper who is looking for hunting and outdoor goods, the Grand Valley will experience the benefit of a spouse in the car that is interested in the home goods that American Furniture has to offer.”

The other good news for retailers and consumer based businesses is that for 2011, the trends show a consumer that has weathered the storms of the previous few years and is actually spending their dollars over the course of the year and not one that is waiting on the few hours of Black Friday to binge with their Holiday dollars in a quick burst. “Black Friday is still very important as the kickoff to the Holiday shopping season, especially one with almost five full weekends before Christmas,” says Schewnke, “But retail indicators show a shopper that is savvy and already taking advantage of early Black Friday specials already available online and while that consumer will indeed take advantage of the “doorbuster” values for the big day, they also show a consumer ready to continue spending throughout the Holiday season.”

“Unlike last year when many retailers were thinking ‘flat sales would be awesome’, we should be hearing them say 2011 was an up year and pretty darned good,” added Schwenke.