September 18, 2010 - 11:00 pm
From clothing to consumer electronics, furniture to fine jewelry, retail sales have been affected by the bad news emanating from conservative economists. The fashionista of a decade ago has turned in to the recessionista.
The unstable economy has forced most consumers to seriously consider even everyday purchases such as groceries as well as other basic buys such as gifts and justify the need for them on an item-by-item basis.
But if you walk down the row of shops at the elegant Forum Shops at Caesars or the Meadows mall, you’ll find darkened spaces next to lively storefronts thriving with customers and colorful stock brimming over the tidy shelves.
What has made some businesses prosper while others fail as the country continues to steer through one of the worst economic crises in decades?
Calculated expansion, positive thinking and good customer service, say area managers.
The economy has significantly hit most Americans to the point that sales have dipped, with retail prices falling 2 percent in the last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U.S. Department of Commerce recently revealed that retail employment has stayed relatively stable, with minor downturns in position levels, compared to other industries that were decimated with layoffs since 2008.
Some local businesses are actually expanding while others are shuttering their doors. How do they do it?
Heather Houston, director of marketing and community affairs for Bribor LLC and Panbor LLC, said that business is better than ever in their area retail stores. Houston is part of the Borsack family, who began the first El Portal luggage store in Las Vegas in 1936 and has continued to be a strong leader in the local retail industry.
“We are family owned and operated,” she said. “The Borsack family has been in Las Vegas since 1908 and they have a passion for retail and our great tourist and local customers.”
It has relied on its long-standing relationships with clients from around the world as well as longtime locals who return annually for sales and holiday gift purchases.
“We look forward to many more flourishing years in Las Vegas, the best retail market in the United States,” Houston said.
The family is putting its money where its beliefs are, with a large expansion of retail stores throughout the valley springing up and continuing that business plan through next year.
“Over the last 18 months we have added quite a few stores,” Houston said.
The company has added one Brighton Collectibles location at Town Square Las Vegas off the Las Vegas Beltway, bringing the total number of Brighton stores to a nice round 10 in Southern Nevada.
The Borsacks have also opened two Pandora stores, which are located in the Forum Shops at Caesars and the Fashion Show mall.
“In addition to those, we are adding two more,” Houston said of their Pandora brand. “The first one is opening in the next two weeks at McCarran International Airport located in the D Gates as well as a Pandora in the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian, which will be opening in December.”
An expansion into another retail giant is planned to begin its first phase this year with the first opening of a Corsa Collections store in the valley at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in December. The next Corsa Collections will open at Tivoli Village at Queensridge in the spring of 2011. When the company has hired all the employees needed, from cashiers to management positions, it expects an overall increase of about 30 percent to the Las Vegas retail employment market, she said.
There are a few changes they’ve made to the family’s area Brighton and Pandora stores to accommodate the recent economic slump.
“We are managing our expenses better and our expectations of our staff are better monitored,” she said.
Consumers have changed the math that makes a purchase worthwhile, with value and quality equating a better purchase for their tightened budgets over fractured buys of frivolous items.
“The great thing about our products for both Brighton and Pandora is that they appeal to all age groups and individual styles,” Houston said. “With Pandora jewelry you can design your own collections with sterling silver and 14 (carat) and 18 (carat) gold celebrating each special moment.”
Being an affordable luxury puts Pandora’s appeal in the hands of all types of consumers, she said. As for Brighton, there is something for everyone in their extensive catalog.
“They truly can dress someone head to toe,” she said, from jewelry to shoes. “Brighton’s quality and craftsmanship is amazing and they have something for every occasion.”
As for the Borsack family’s new Corsa Collections shops, it is a multibrand concept travel and accessory store. The gamble isn’t much of one considering the vast consumer base.
“Corsa has always led the way in handbag and accessory trends as well as appealing to the discerning traveler who not only wants function but fashion as well,” she said.
What assists in keeping them not only afloat but excelling is the quality of their product as well as their insistence on interactive customer service events.
“We have more events happening and fun activities for our customers,” she said, including contests, gift-with-purchase giveaways as well as special recognition for its top customers. “We also have been partnering with various nonprofit groups to help give back to our community. Our goal was that we wanted our customers to feel good about their decision to buy from us. Now it is our mission to have them feel great.”
One recent local entry into the market is the industry giant Foliot Furniture. The wholesale company recently opened in Las Vegas near McCarran International Airport. It intends to expand its business to new clients in other areas, said Lenix Jorge, human resources manager for Foliot Furniture.
Foliot, based in Canada, has made and delivered furniture for 200,000 rooms in colleges, universities, hotels and resorts as well as military bases in the United States for two decades. But that business plan was changed up with the expansion of another client base.
“We have expanded into new markets like hospitality,” Jorge said, noting that this is what has helped Foliot to continue to grow since the economy took a dive.
The company opened its Las Vegas location this year, after looking at Reno and Phoenix as possible locations. It’s a good thing for the city as industry experts expect Foliot’s Las Vegas’ 300,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and showroom to offer a more than $60 million economic impact to the valley through 2015.
Since its August opening, the plant has been making upward of 200 pieces of furniture daily for clients such as the Stratosphere. It intends to increase that number to 1,000 units a day as the company uses the Las Vegas location to expand to other areas in the surrounding region.
The company has big plans for Las Vegas, even though the numbers might not be so rosy in the overall retail industry at the moment.
“We expect continued growth in Las Vegas with the new expansion into the hospitality furniture,” Jorge said, adding that it’s part of the company’s overall business plan. “We are concentrating in growing in the West Coast.”
The company’s ongoing success is due to more than its customer service and quality, he said.
“We are able to provide a quality product ‘on time,’ ” he said.
Foliot has made a point of hiring dislocated employees from around the country as well as culling talent from the large pool of unemployed workers in Las Vegas. There is a vast number of unemployed with customer service experience locally as well as the hard-hit construction field that can fit well into Foliot’s established team.
“Foliot furniture manufactures quality furniture while creating a harmonious environment for its clients, employees and the community,” he said, adding they are currently taking applications.