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August 5, 2008 2:09 PM

Business, Retail

Losing in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a city -- and a state of mind -- where sobriety and budgets are frowned upon. It's a place where the phrase "anything goes" is part of the DNA. But the economic swoon means that Las...


Las Vegas is a city -- and a state of mind -- where sobriety and budgets are frowned upon. It's a place where the phrase "anything goes" is part of the DNA. But the economic swoon means that Las Vegas is suddenly less isolated from the troubles of the world outside its borders. Everyone who's paying higher prices to make the trip to the desert oasis is reminded of that. And that's bad news for Sin City, which about 10 minutes ago was one of the fastest growing retail markets in the country, especially in the luxury sector. No more.

So when tourists arrive in Vegas these days, many continue to suffer from the very condition the city is supposed to cure: restraint.

Walking the marbled halls of some of Las Vegas' lavish shopping centers, amid decor that is strictly over-the top, I stopped several visitors to ask if they would do their part for the retail community and spend like they'd never heard the words "mortgage foreclosure." But this small, random sampling wasn't a carefree group. Most responses hued to the "I'm being conservative with my dollars" mantra, and the salesperson-to-shopper ratio in luxury stores bore that out. Sales associates said the climate was among the worst -- if not the worst -- in their experience. And there were a lot of rueful comments from visitors about making that big score in the casinos. Hope springs eternal, especially in Vegas.

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