ARCHIVED  November 1, 1995

Fort Collins retail dominates despite new outlet mall

FORT COLLINS — Loveland’s Rocky Mountain Factory Stores may have provided a challenge to Fort Collins’ long-held position of preferred shopping destination for Northern Colorado, but state Department of Revenue statistics show that the city continues to dominate the retail landscape.
Fort Collins accounted for 59.8 percent of retail sales in Larimer County at the end of 1993; Loveland provided about 23.7 percent. For the year ended 1994, which included the first seven months of trade at the factory stores, Fort Collins controlled 60.4 percent of the retail market. In the first six months of 1995, Fort Collins held 60.5 percent of retail trade; Loveland accounted for nearly 23 percent.
The fact that the factory stores did not nibble away at Fort Collins’ lead in the market came as a surprise to city finance officers.
“We expected Loveland’s percentage of sales to really grow,” city financial analyst Sherrie Temple said.
But local retailers, given fair warning of the coming competition two years ago, say they simply made adjustments to their marketing strategies and merchandising and continue to hold their own in the face of promised values and selection 18 miles down the road.
During the first seven months the factory stores were open, retail sales were up 9.7 percent in Fort Collins, though the apparel category experienced a 2 percent decline, Temple said. Through the first eight months of 1995, retail sales were up 7.8 percent, while the apparel and accessory category was down about 3.6 percent.
Jack Gillum, general manager of Foothills Fashion Mall, is reluctant to attribute any sales declines entirely to the advent of nearby outlet shopping, though.
“With the outlet center opening and expanding, obviously there are more choices for customers to choose from,” Gillum said. “But there are also lots of other venues for people to spend money on. With the emergence of baseball and the Avalanche, there is more competition for discretionary spending dollars than there used to be.”
That means sharpening the marketing push for what disposable income consumers do save for shopping. Foothills Fashion Mall has stepped up advertising on cable television, radio, newspapers and in the mall to stress selection, value and service, among other things.
Gillum said the tenant mix at the 95 percent leased mall is constantly being upgraded to include stores that aren’t found at the factory stores, including Eddie Bauer, Structure and Limited Express. Foleys is in the process of expanding by about 53,000 square feet to become a full-line department store. And Foothills Fashion Mall will announce two new national stores next spring. The more than 550,000-square-foot mall experienced business growth both in 1994 and 1995.
Old Town men’s clothier John Pittner said he dropped the Tommy Hilfinger line when he learned the designer planned to open a store in the outlet mall but said the factory stores are no competition for J. Pittner.
“We sell a lot better goods than any of that stuff,” Pittner said.
That doesn’t mean Pittner is standing on the sidelines of the retail game. Lower priced clothing and accessory lines have never sold well at J. Pittner, but when mall retailers along the lines of the Gap Inc.-owned stores began upgrading their inventory to respond to competition from the factory stores, Pittner also moved ahead.
“Banana Republic had to upgrade, and we had to go beyond that. And we have,” Pittner said. “The quality and price points in my store are higher than they were a year ago, and my business has never been better.”
But Pittner is not resting on his laurels “I’m not being cocky. We still have to grind it out and pay attention,” he said.
Glenn Schlotter, managing partner in Brown’s Shoe Fit on West Oak Street, wouldn’t disclose which shoe lines he dropped when the factory stores opened. But he said the store has remerchandised and repriced to stay competitive with the lines they did keep.
As a result, Schlotter said, he has customers who see the same shoes at the Loveland stores and comment that there isn’t much of a price break at the outlet.
“We always point out that ours are first-quality, not factory defectives or irregular,” Schlotter said.
Carey Hewitt, whose College Avenue housewares store The Cupboard has grown over a 23-year period from 750 square feet in the Great Northern Hotel to a 6,500-square-foot expanse, said he’s not worrying about something he has no control over.
“We’ve seen an expansion of business reflective of Fort Collins’ economy,” Hewitt said. “The economy is kind of perking along, and we perk along with it.
“If (the outlet stores) hadn’t opened, maybe increases would have been stronger, but it’s hard to measure.”

FORT COLLINS — Loveland’s Rocky Mountain Factory Stores may have provided a challenge to Fort Collins’ long-held position of preferred shopping destination for Northern Colorado, but state Department of Revenue statistics show that the city continues to dominate the retail landscape.
Fort Collins accounted for 59.8 percent of retail sales in Larimer County at the end of 1993; Loveland provided about 23.7 percent. For the year ended 1994, which included the first seven months of trade at the factory stores, Fort Collins controlled 60.4 percent of the retail market. In the first six months of 1995, Fort Collins held 60.5…

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