Area merchants optimistic about recovery in economy

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Terra Verde is a small shop in downtown Colorado Springs featuring a wide range of merchandise designed to catch the eye of the discriminating shopper. Acting Manager Ann Luckett hopes prospective shoppers have taken note that information from professional money people indicates the recession is over and that it is all right to spend.
“I’d say it may be a little while for me to decide if it’s all right to do any sustained shopping,” said Bree Holland, who works in a Monument car dealership. “I know the recession is supposed to be over, but my investments aren’t growing, so for now I’ll be satisfied with buying a few books or knick-naks.”
Holland’s cautious approach does not mean all of Terra Verde’s customers feel that way.
“We’re not cutting back at all,” Luckett said of merchandise ordered for spring and summer shoppers. “We had a really great year last year and things look good going into this season.”
Terra Verde buyer Amy Christensen echoes the same sentiment.
“We just had our best Christmas ever,” Christensen said. “We’re looking forward to a very good spring and summer season, and if anything, I’ll be purchasing more than usual.”
The store considers previous year’s sales records when deciding how much to spend for upcoming seasons, said Christensen, who makes several buying trips every year.
“Some of the vendors we buy from are projecting slow sales, but we’re really not,” Christensen said.
Another downtown storeowner, Dick Noyes of Chinook Bookstore, is also upbeat about spring and summer shoppers. He should be a good barometer, too, having been in the book-selling business since 1958.
“People are getting cabin fever,” Noyes said. “They want to get out and go places, to shop.”
Domestic travel will be up this year because of Sept. 11, Noyes said, and that will benefit local shops. “That means many people will be traveling by automobile,” Noyes said, as a dozen or more shoppers mull over new releases at the front of the store. “We feel positive about the summer.”
“You have to be a professional optimist to be a retailer,” Noyes said. Shoppers and shop owners mirror the position held by someone who should know – professional number people like economists.
If local merchants are optimistic, someone else who knows about this kind of thing isn’t so sanguine.
“As we approach spring of 2002, signs of economic recovery are mixed,” said Dr. Tucker Hart Adams, Chief Economist with the Rocky Mountain Region of U.S. Bank. “Although there is mounting evidence that the pundits in Cambridge… will eventually rule that the downturn ended in late 2001 or the first quarter of 2002, businesses and consumers see little evidence of improvement.”
The implications are mixed, and it will be a year before a major upswing is experienced, Hart Adams said.
“Although the recession may officially end early in 2002, that will bring little comfort to Colorado businesses and consumers.” she said. “The real estate and construction industries will feel the most distress. By 2002, recovery will be well underway,” Hart Adams said. “There are no fundamental problems underlying the Colorado economy and the state will be well-positioned to take advantage of the next economic expansion.”
Another measure of the local economy is how busy hotels and motels are. Information from the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitor’s Bureau indicate about 15,400 rooms were reserved in January and February this year; last year the number was about 11,000.
The Colorado Springs Economic Development Corporation also reports positive news for the city airport. While airports nationwide report generally lower numbers, flights at the Colorado Springs Airport are up 2.6 percent over last year.
The increases are in part because three new airlines started flying from the Springs late last year and early this year. They are Vanguard, Great Planes Airlines and Allegiant Air.
Vectra Bank Colorado’s Small Business Index points to a good year, and predicts Colorado businesses will do well.
“Colorado will benefit from an improving national economy, which posted a surprising 1.4 percent annual growth rate after inflation,” said Jeff Thredgold, the Salt Lake City economist who prepares the Colorado report.
Manitou Springs officials say the upcoming tourism season looks good. “Our requests for information have gone up a lot,” said Jan Wilkinson, administrative assistant for the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Internet requests for information are also up, Wilkinson said. “We really believe from what we’ve seen so far that Manitou Springs will have a good season.”
Perhaps the best projection for summer tourism comes from the Colorado Springs Visitor and Convention Bureau.
“Based on the numbers so far, we expect a great year,” said Elizabeth Youngquist, Director of Public Relations and Marketing. “It’s hard to predict how good a season is going to be, but we have some events coming up this summer that will add to the numbers.”
The number of requests for information are up considerably from last year, Youngquist said. “Our Internet hits are way up,” she said. “Just based on information requests so far, we think it’s going to be an outstanding summer.”