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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The tiny island — as famous for its weathered shingles and windswept beaches as for its well-heeled populace — gets about 350,000 visitors from June through September. After a surge in the late Nineties, the island’s numbers have flattened, Bakalar said.

“Because so many of our visitors are ceo’s of major companies, our economy generally coincides with the national economy,” she said. An uptick in sales of multimillion-dollar homes has her hopeful for a second-half recovery.

Karen Golov, owner of Eye of the Needle on Nantucket, said the island is quieter this season than in years prior. Customers are looking for fun values, rather than high-end buys.

“Quite frankly, when the economy is bad, my store does even better,” she said. “They’re not buying designer labels as much, but anyone can buy a $40 belt or a cute new handbag.”

She’s done well with girly-prepster lines such as Milly, Rebecca Taylor and the new line, Dr. Boudoir. “Always girly for us,” she said, describing the store’s merchandise. “We passed on cargo, and we’ll pass on Mod this fall.”

Golov has a second Eye of the Needle on Newbury Street, Boston’s unofficial runway and one of the city’s major tourist attractions for its shops, restaurants and string of art galleries. Performance there has been “consistent,” she said. “It’s been harder since we lost all the European kids after 9/11, but we always have the Beacon Hill ladies who come to spend.”

Intermix’s Keledjian, who has an Intermix door on Newbury Street and other major tourist destinations besides Miami, said Boston’s international business is distinctly off, but the historic city seems to be drawing domestic travelers interested in patriotic sites like the Freedom Trail.

Novelty miniskirts — festooned with ruffles or rigged with cargo pockets — did well for him. Business is “improving” after “several rough months with the very cold spring,” Keledjian said.

A couple of hours up the coast, traffic through outlet mecca Freeport, Maine, has been “all over the board,” said Catherine Glover, executive director of the Freeport Merchants Association, representing 150 area businesses.
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