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Rodeo retailers say 2010 wasn’t the greatest go-round

The official numbers won’t be tabulated for several weeks, but many merchants who rented booths at the cowboy merchandise marts staged in conjunction with the recently ended National Finals Rodeo have already concluded it was a tepid year.

“I was up just a little bit this year,” Scott Grosskopf, the co-owner of Business Businesses based in Billings, Mont., said from his booth at the Cowboy Marketplace at Mandalay Bay. “We have a niche, high-end product that always has a clientele.”

But it came at a price. Many of his riding items, such as spurs, saddles and saddle straps, come decorated with silver and he said he has held his prices stable despite the doubling of silver prices in the past year. “When people buy my items, they know they are getting 27 ounces at a 17 ounce-price.”

The rodeo itself, which concluded Saturday, sold out all 175,000 tickets to the 10 events, although hundreds were available on various reselling websites.

The vendors’ anecdotal experience reflected what the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has recorded for the area in general: spending that has remained sluggish despite higher visitor totals compared to a weak 2009.

Four venues staged Western-themed markets housing hundreds of retailers.

The belts, billfolds and mounted Texas longhorns moved slowly at M.P. & K.D. Horn and Leather Shop. “We’ve been down every day from last year,” said co-owner, K.D. Miller of Fort Worth. “Going in, we figured it might be down but not as bad as it was. At some of our other shows, we were doing pretty good.”

Clay Miller decided to give Las Vegas a try this year after having regularly rented spaces at other competitions, including the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity in Fort Worth. He sold 56 pairs of custom-made boots there, at prices ranging from $450 to more than $2,000, but did only half that number here.

“I just don’t think that people have as much money to spend,” he said.

Kate Wilson, the owner of Diamond W Western World boots based in Coleman, Texas, said her sales have fallen off and doesn’t believe anyone who said they were doing better. She pointed to the aisle in front of her booth, with what she considered too much open carpet and too few people for a Friday afternoon, as a visual prop to make her point.

“Some people think nothing of buying three or four pairs,” she said. “But a lot of others find what they like and then say, ‘I’ll think about it.’ People aren’t here to shop like they were last year.”

It could take weeks before Lucas Hannah, the owner of Cowhide Western Furniture of Corinth, Texas, knows how popular his ranch-style furniture and animal skins were because he often receives orders weeks or months after a customer sees an item.

From what the results of the show, he figured that his sales had held steady for his Cowhide Western Furniture. Still, he added, “You can tell people are holding on to their money.”

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@
reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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