The Summer Season: As Tourism Recovers, Travelers Hit the Malls

America is in the middle of its annual summer migrations, and the good news for retailers is that many tourists have their credit cards out.

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Oahu’s Ala Moana mall.

Photo By WWD Staff

America is in the middle of its annual summer migrations, and the good news for retailers is that many tourists have their credit cards out.

Store and mall executives at vacation spots from Nantucket to Hawaii and Miami to Minneapolis report tourist business has improved this year over last, despite the general retail doldrums. With the war in Iraq, continued fears of terrorist attacks, the weak dollar and SARS, most Americans still favor domestic travel to venturing overseas. And while the weak economy might mean the overall tourist numbers are down, at least those who are visiting are shopping, especially for fun items.

Maybe it’s because of the weather. The month of June was a washout in many weekend beach areas, for example, sending shoppers to the malls. July was a slight improvement, which may have put consumers in a summer shopping mood at last and generated better-than-expected same-store sales. As reported, same-store sales in July registered some of the best gains in more than a year, driven by price promotions and improved weather. The first 10 days of August have seen the promotions continue while the weather — at least on the East Coast — has returned to gray skies and torrential rain. Perfect conditions for consumers to hit the malls to get ready for back-to-school?

Time will tell. Meanwhile, here is a spot check of the retail business being done at some vacation destinations around the country.


Spring’s chilly showers kept tourists away from New England’s famous coast in June, but the brighter and warmer temperatures in July brought them back. The so-far damp squib of August could result in a dismal conclusion to summer, though.

“Certainly, weather hurt us this spring,” said Tracy Bakalar, executive director of the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce. “Nantucket is one of those communities with short-term bookings. Many people don’t decide until Monday if they’re coming out for the weekend, and with the meteorologists warning about bad weather — and being wrong half the time — it’s been tough.”

The one upside, she continued, is inclement weather helps retail and restaurants. “It’s the classic catch-22. Fewer people, but the people who were here were spending.”
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