Retailers seek Classic residuals from PGA exposure (VIDEO)
At The Greenbrier, foot traffic on the corridor of shops in the hotel is slightly down, said Alfred Lierman, the resort's director of retail, but in the 5,000-square-foot tent on the golf course where official FedEx Cup gear is on sale, business is booming.
"It's definitely exceeding expectations," he said. "We've had to reorder merchandise during the week."
It's too soon to have sales numbers, but established tournaments typically do as much as $1 million in merchandise sales, he said.
Including the four high-end stores added when the Greenbrier's casino opened earlier this month, the resort boasts 20 stores. The newest, Fizzy's Land of Oz, a toy store named after a beloved Justice family dog (a Boston Terrier, now deceased), opened Friday.
"The idea is that it's an interactive fantasy environment for children," he said.
Traffic picks up when the competition on the links ends for the day, Lierman said. Players' families are enjoying the facilities, and some who didn't bring their families have indicated that they won't make the same mistake next year.
"We really believe it's going to be one of the most popular tournaments of the year, once people see everything we have to offer," he said.
In nearby Lewisburg, businesses have put their best foot forward, but have not been inundated with large crowds.
Rather than focus on a short-term boom, they are hoping that widespread exposure stemming from the tournament will inspire visitors to return to the area.
"It's such a great marketing opportunity for us," said Kara Dense, director of the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau, noting that the publicity surrounding the tournament is as good as advertising for local businesses. "We want [visitors] to come back again and again."
Tony Juker, owner of Tavern 1785 and the Del Sol café in downtown Lewisburg, said his restaurants might have been a little busier this week, but have not been mobbed by golf fans.
"In the short term, everybody's expectations were a little high," he said. "My business in general has increased as the week has gone on. We'll have a nice weekend as the tournament ends."
The real benefit, he said, will come down the line -- long after the inaugural Greenbrier Classic ends.
"People will rediscover the Greenbrier Valley and all the advantages we have to offer," he said, "so that the future will look brighter."
Monica Maxwell, owner of the Harmony Ridge Gallery, said Lewisburg's retailers are learning what to expect from a tournament week. Initially, she'd planned to keep the gallery open late early in the week, but learning that the big crowds don't come until later, she scratched that plan.
July is typically a strong month for retailers, she noted. Rather than an immediate spike in sales, she hopes for a residual effect as more people are exposed to Lewisburg.
"Our slogan for the town is Expect the Unexpected, because that's exactly what happens," she said. "We just need people here, and the town sells itself."
Tamera Pence, owner of the gourmet food store Bella and president of the Lewisburg Downtown Business Association, echoed Maxwell's thoughts.
"The big boom for us will be long-term," she said. "The exposure for us is absolutely phenomenal."
At her store, she stocked a few more beverages, and put a little extra gelato in the freezer, counting on the warm weather to help sell the refreshing treats.
Local merchants did a little extra advertising to capitalize on the attention attracted by the tournament, and some stocked some extra inventory, but otherwise haven't radically altered their business approach, said Katie Ickes, director of the Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce.
"The ones I've talked to have been pleased with the response, especially being the first year [of The Greenbrier Classic]," she said.
Ickes and Dense said they fielded calls Friday from people looking for last-minute accommodations. People are staying as far away as Beckley, Princeton, Lexington, Va., and Snowshoe, said Dense.
Reach Andrew Clevenger at acleven...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.