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On your marks, ready, set …

John Seelmeyer

When shoppers hit the streets in the wee hours the Friday after Thanksgiving, they’ll find major shopping centers in the Reno area that about as fully leased up they ever are.

And they’ll find retailers who say they haven’t seen much impact on either their traffic or their sales from the double whammy of higher gas prices and consumers’ perceptions that they’re less wealthy as home prices have declined.

The most recent figures on taxable sales collected by the state statistics on August sales showed that sales activity in Washoe County was down by nearly 4 percent from year-earlier figures. Sales in Carson City were down nearly 7 percent.

But building materials, hit hard by the housing downturn, and automotive sales carry big weight in those statistics. The state department of taxation says categories that typically do well at Christmas apparel, for instance, or consumer electronics have been posting good gains through recent months.

That supports the observations of Larry Hunt, senior property manager at The Summit Sierra owned by Bayer Properties.

The center has only four open spaces all of them small along with two restaurant locations that await tenants.

A 36,717-square-foot addition to the two-year-old center is about half leased Charlotte Russe took 6,700 square feet, Lenscrafters took 3,400 square feet and Sephora took 6,200 square feet.

Deals are near for the remainder of the space, says Hunt, and Bayers Properties executives are beginning some very preliminary thoughts about the second phase of The Summit, north of the existing center.

The middle- and upper-income demographic targeted by the center hasn’t been slowed in the least by publicity about national economic woes, he says.

“We’re still going to have Christmas,” Hunt says, noting that upper-end retailing often is insulated from the worst of economic swings. For some retailers at The Summit, customers from the tony neighborhoods around Lake Tahoe account for half of sales.

Meadowood Mall, meanwhile, enters the holiday season almost fully leased.

“We always have a waiting list,” says General Manager Tony Vail.

He says traffic and spending at the center have remained strong, and he credits the healthy fundamentals of the northern Nevada economy particularly steady job growth for more than five years that has put more spendable dollars into consumers’ pockets.

Even if the region’s economy gets choppy, Vail says the momentum of that economic development continues to provide strength to retailers.

The Summit, meanwhile, is working hard to find ways to keep consumers on the property longer. In fact, one of Hunt’s goals is to create a destination where residents want to bring out-of-town guests.


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