Retailers here are predicting sales growth in 2015, as the economy and consumer confidence continue to improve.
Bryn West, general manager of River Park Square, says the downtown mall is anticipating sales growth of 2.5 percent for 2015, which is on par with 2014.
“Which is pretty amazing, because the past two years have seen increases as well,” she says. “Consumer confidence has definitely come back.”
West says River Park Square has signed a lease with a new food court tenant, although she declines for now to divulge its name. She says the mall also is expecting a few new clothing tenants next year.
“We’re kind of harnessing the momentum that we harnessed two years ago and pushing it into 2015,” she says.
In overall industry trends, West says she’s noticed that customers are savvier and doing more research before buying.
“But they’re not ready to make all those purchases online,” she says. “I always liken it to, if a woman is going to buy a $500 suit, it’s easiest to come down and try it on than buy it online without trying it on.”
June Hobson, co-owner of the North Side outlet of the Lincoln, Neb.-based HobbyTown USA franchise, also says she’s also seen an upward trend in consumer confidence this year.
“We are feeling that from our customers,” she says.
Hobson says the HobbyTown store is predicting sales in 2015 to be higher than 2014, mainly because the 10-year-old store moved to its current, larger space at 9632 N. Newport Highway in September. She also says that the store’s sales have been higher this year than they were last year.
However, Hobson says HobbyTown has also felt competition from online sales.
“We’ve noticed our competitor is not the guy down the street anymore; our competitor is Amazon,” she says.
West says her impression is that Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday known as a big day for online shopping, wasn’t as strong this year.
“Brick-and-mortars offered Black Friday deals earlier, and Cyber Monday was extended into a whole week,” she says. “That’s an indicator that the pace has slowed (for Cyber Monday).”
However, some other Spokane retailers are continuing to feel the pinch of the online market. Curt Kinghorn, owner of longtime downtown running shoe store Runners Soul Spokane, says customers sometimes come in to get fitted for shoes, and then go buy them online.
“They’re getting it cheaper online because they don’t have to (pay employees) for the 45 minutes it takes to fit them, and also because they don’t have to pay state sales tax,” he says.
Kinghorn says the online market wouldn’t cut into the physical retail market if online retailers had to charge state sales tax.
“If we could make Congress put on their big-boy pants and make the Internet charge state tax for wherever they’re selling to, it would make a world of difference,” he says.
Kinghorn says he expects sales next year to be similar to what they’ve been this year at both of his stores, located downtown at 221 N. Wall and on the North Side at 10208 N. Division.
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