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Chris Jones

Spending, Shopper Counts at Preattack Levels, Retailers Say

8 September 2003

The past two years have presented difficult challenges for Las Vegas' tourism-dependent retailers, but recent consumer trends reported at several Strip shopping centers show damage caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has largely been overcome.

Convention authority research shows local visitors spent a per-trip average of $83.53 on shopping last year, down significantly from 2001's average of $106.75. Despite that apparent downturn, overall consumer spending and traffic counts have long since returned to or exceeded preattack levels at Aladdin's Desert Passage mall, the Forum Shops at Caesars and The Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes, representatives of those properties said.

Nearly two years after the attacks, local retailers said they're now more concerned about ongoing slumps in the travel industry and U.S. economy than any lingering fallout from Sept. 11.

"The effects of 9-11 were felt for about four to six months after the attacks, but I don't think it's September 11 as much as the economic issues that have continued to affect us," said Troy Fischer, general manager of Trizec Properties's Desert Passage.

Desert Passage's July sales-per-square-foot were up nearly 26 percent compared with the same month in 2001 and up 9.5 percent from July 2002. Still, Fischer said his center -- and others around town -- continue to battle poor consumer confidence, visitors' renewed interest in value-priced goods, and many retailers' increased reluctance to expand or grow.

"A lot of retailers are taking longer to select new store sites or open new stores," Fischer said, citing May Department Stores Co.'s recent decision to back out of a planned Lord & Taylor department store at the Rouse Co.'s Fashion Show mall, in addition to closing other Lord & Taylor stores around the nation.

That withdrawal won't prevent Rouse from opening the latest portions of Fashion Show's $1 billion expansion in October. Farther south, Mandalay Resort Group will this fall debut Mandalay Place, an approximately 40-store shopping corridor between Mandalay Bay and Luxor, while the Forum Shops is also building a $139 million expansion that will add 175,000 square feet of retail space by fall 2004.

"We're optimistic and are adding new stores and restaurants to make sure Las Vegas doesn't remain stale," said Maureen Crampton, marketing director of the Forum Shops, which attracted nearly 15 million tourists last year.

Sales figures at The Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes are on pace to approach $1,050 to $1,100-per-square-foot by the end of this year, an average that would exceed preattack levels, said Fred Walters, the center's general manager. Such improvement is a great indicator of the local tourism market, Walters added, because nearly 97 percent of the center's customers come from outside Southern Nevada.

"Some of our luxury stores have added items with lower price points because shoppers might not see luxury items with the same necessity, but overall our sales of jewelry and high-end apparel are up" compared with 2001 totals, Walters said. "People are definitely shopping again."