“Pent-Up Demand” Gives Denver Small Businesses A Big Jump In Foot Traffic

Cherry Creek North, Feb. 28, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) cherry creek; denver; colorado; deverite; kevinjbeaty;

Coloradans are eager to leave the house – and it’s not only about getting to the state’s great outdoors.

At Cherry Creek North, an upscale shopping and dining district in Denver, foot traffic in May was more than triple the same time last year, according to data collected by the area’s business improvement district.  The reading was just a few hundred visitors shy of the 652,544 people walking around the neighborhood in May of 2019, the data show.

People are increasingly meeting up with friends, dining out and partaking in the celebrations the pandemic put on hold. The boom in activity outside the home is translating to a boom for small brick-and-mortar businesses that took a big hit when they were forced to shut down and limit the number of visitors.

And Americans are in the mood to shop. Earlier this week, the National Retail Federation upped its annual forecast for 2021 as the economic recovery picks up faster than anticipated. The group anticipates retail sales will grow between 10.5 percent and 13.5 percent to more than $4.44 trillion this year.

Terry Garbarini owns Garbarini, a clothing boutique in Cherry Creek North. She’s been in business for almost 40 years. After a very difficult year, traffic started picking up at the beginning of March as the pace of vaccinations accelerated, she said.

“It actually just keeps getting busier and busier and busier… We don’t know how long this is going to last, but it’s obviously kind of some pent-up demand because people sat at home for a year,” Garbarini said.

Keeping shelves stocked is a challenge, Garbarini said. She’s ordering new inventory every week. Items are selling out quickly, and her inventory was already low because ordering for spring fashions is typically done in September, she said. Back then, COVID-19 cases were climbing and the timing of vaccines was far from certain. Garbarini bought the bare minimum, and avoided clothing for special occasions.

“We didn’t know what business would be like,” she said. “We could have bought a lot more than we did, but who knew?”

She says fun, summery items like casual dresses and shorts are big sellers this season.

Retailers throughout Denver county look to be getting a boost. Google data shows retail establishments are outpacing transit stations and workplaces when it comes to a recovery in visitation in recent months, according to data from the Downtown Denver Partnership.

Foot traffic for retailers in the urban core of downtown Denver – which is largely dependent on conventions, large events and office workers - will likely see a bigger jump in late August or September when businesses bring more workers back to the office, according to Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership.

“They just started bringing employees back in late May. They’re in a transition process,” Door said.