Retail Traffic

Convention Hosts Aim to Capital

Denver merchant Vicki Raichart is perplexed. With just three months until the Democratic National Convention, Raichart is unsure how to prepare for the thousands of political junkies, staffers and journalists who will descend upon the Mile High City in August. Will convention-goers flood her store? Will they be too wrapped up in politicking to go shopping? Will extra staff or merchandise be needed?

“We don't know what to expect,” Raichart says. “We're optimistic, and business is good anyway. There's nowhere to look but up.”

Raichart co-owns Cali & Mo, a store that carries new and vintage clothing, furniture, gifts and accessories. Cali & Mo occupies 1,800 square feet at the Denver Pavilions, situated in the heart of downtown's 16th Street Mall and home to 50 retail stores, restaurants and entertainment venues. The 16th Street Mall, the major shopping strip in downtown Denver, is two blocks from the Colorado Convention Center and a short walk from several major hotels.

Although Raichart has no clue whether her store will ring up mile-high sales from convention-goers, Denver Pavilions spokeswoman Samantha Roman says she thinks the shop will perform well when the Democrats come to town because of Cali & Mo's unique merchandise mix. “We feel this is an example of the kind of store that will do well during the DNC, with people looking for that special one-of-a-kind purchase from Denver,” Roman says.

An estimated 35,000 to 50,000 people — delegates, media representatives and so forth — will attend the Aug. 25-28 confab and are predicted to drop nearly $11.9 million at Cali & Mo and other retail establishments in the Denver area. The Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau pegs the overall economic impact at $160 million to $200 million. To ensure the retail sector captures a chunk of those dollars, Denver is rolling out the welcome mat for shoppers.

Tom Mathews, vice president for retail properties at CB Richard Ellis in Denver, says the local retail sector is “pretty excited and pretty bullish” about the convention.

For convention-goers, the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau is assembling a retail and restaurant guide on behalf of the gathering's local host committee. The Downtown Denver Business Improvement District spent $140,000 on 105 new flower planters along streets adjoining the 16th Street Mall. Two of the area's largest shopping areas, Cherry Creek North and the adjacent 169-store Cherry Creek Shopping Center, are collaborating on shopping shuttles for convention guests. Furthermore, the 320 stores and 18 fine art galleries at Cherry Creek North will extend their store hours during the convention, says Christina Brickley, marketing director for the high-end outdoor shopping district.

However, Brickley indicates the “real opportunity” for Denver merchants isn't the four-day gathering itself, but the publicity generated by the convention. For several months, the 16-block Cherry Creek North area has hosted journalists — from places like Australia, England, New Zealand and Taiwan — who are developing stories on Denver that will appear in August, she says.

“Shopping areas and cultural attractions in Denver are excited about the opportunity to bring an international eye to Denver and a new group of customers for the week,” Brickley says.

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