As the nation looks to Washington to solve its economic dilemma, Foggy Bottom retailers are trying to weather the storm with deep discounts aimed toward GW students, one of their primary sources of revenue.
Though sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving were up 3 percent from 2007, ShopperTrak, a business research firm that focuses in retail, has predicted a 9.9 percent retail traffic decrease for the holiday season.
“Currently we’re anticipating the lowest retail sales and total U.S. traffic numbers we’ve seen since we started compiling this data in 2001,” Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said in a news release.
College students are not the target audience for national chains, which are more focused on their parents, but many stores around campus have come to rely on GW students to provide a large percentage of their profits.
Hamid Shah, the manager of Expressions, a women’s clothing store in 2000 Penn, said about 20 percent of sales usually come from GW students.
“This year has been bad, and our sales are not as good as they’ve been in the past. It’s been slow because of the economy,” he said. “There has definitely been a decrease in GW students shopping here. Last year we had double the amount of GWorld sales.”
To entice students and other shoppers into the store, he said they have planned to discount all of the merchandise by 40 percent as the holiday shopping season progresses.
“Right now we have about half the store on sale,” Shah said. “But I think once the economy bounces back we’ll be fine.”
That’s the mindset at the Betsey Johnson store on M Street in Georgetown, where the store’s computer backgrounds read, “What Recession?” They are featuring up to 70 percent off sale items, with $295 empire waist dresses marked down to $88.50.
“We’re more of an occasion store, and students come here to get dresses for formals and events. Even though sales are down, parties are still happening,” Jenny Zinn, the store’s manager said. “But this is the slowest holiday season I’ve seen in 15 years in retail. I think we’ve seen a decrease in GW students spending money because, in general, people are being more cautious of what they’re buying. But recessions start because people stop spending money.”
One spending incentive the store is featuring is it’s participation in the Georgetown Bar Hop & Shop sponsored by LG. Participants receive a $5 discount guide to various stores and bars on M street, including Betsey Johnson.
But many students have cut back on their consumerism not because they’re scared to spend, but because of the economy has affected their families.
“The recent economic crises have definitely affected me,” freshman Adriana Carlile said. “I’m more aware of what I’m buying, and I’m not buying unnecessary things anymore. It’s healthier to watch your money.”
Carlile said that though she usually checks out the bargains on Black Friday, she decided not to purchase anything this year partly because she and her family have decided to forgo holiday gifts.
Many stores on campus, like Expressions, have offered new enticements or discounted items to get students to open their wallets. Starbucks, which has two locations on campus, has partnered with Costco to offer five $20 gift cards for $80, lowered prices on many holiday items like mugs and CDs and introduced a $25 reward card that allows shoppers to get 10 percent off coffee and gifts.
Relaxed Tanning and Day Spa next to the Dakota on F Street is offering members 15 percent off any spa service this month. Tresses, a hair salon on 19th and G streets, offers $5 discounts on haircuts for students. The Metropolitan Optical store in the Shops at 2000 Penn is offering 30 percent off all nonprescription sunglasses. Steve Madden on M Street is offering an additional 25 percent off sale items, and 10 percent off full-priced items for students. Wink, a women’s clothing store in Georgetown, is offering everything for 20 percent off.
“Sales in the store have been down since the Wall Street crisis, but we’re not going to go out of business,” said Malerie Matlock, Wink’s manager. “We had a good amount of people on Friday, and people looking for unique and quality clothing will still come here.”
But even students who feel immune to the recession are trying to shop smart.
“I don’t feel that affected, but I’ll definitely be more cautious after the economic crisis,” freshman Anila Kahn said. “But I had to shop on Friday, the sales were really good.”