By Ed Moosbrugger
September 13 -- The decidedly
unclear picture of retailing in Downtown
Santa Monica continued into the summer,
with a mix of sales gains and declines
Downtown isn’t alone in the search
for a clear pattern of business.
Take two recent national reports on
retail sales. First, the International
Council of Shopping Centers reported
that July sales at major chains it tracks
fell short of expectations. A few days
later, the federal government reported
that retail sales for July exceeded
Results for the major chains probably
give a better picture of the types of
retailers found in Downtown Santa Monica.
At the Quicksilver store on the Third
Street Promenade, which sells surfing
and boarding apparel, accessories and
equipment, business has been a bit disappointing
“It’s kind of slow this
year,” said manager Jim Gill in
mid August. “It just seems that
traffic is down.” He’s not
sure why, because the weather has been
good. Perhaps, he said, people are just
going to the beach instead of shopping.
Mark Hennessey, owner of Hennessey +
Ingalls bookstore on Wilshire Boulevard,
reported that “it’s been
a little slow. There is a trend, it
seems.” One problem, he said,
may be the difficulties international
“They’ve made it so difficult
to come into this country,” he
said, recalling a long delay he had
going through customs.
Hennessey had felt that the weak dollar
would help increase tourism, which is
very important to Downtown businesses,
but now he’s not sure.
The occupancy rate at Santa Monica hotels
jumped 3.2 percent in June from a year
earlier to 85.8 percent following a
3.2 percent drop in May, according to
PKF Consulting. For the first half of
2007 the occupancy rate edged up 0.2
At Taos Indian Trading Co. on Santa
Monica Boulevard, co-owner Todd Swift
is “happy with the summer.”
He noted in early August that tourism
from Europe was starting to kick in,
with visitors from Germany, Italy and
France, among others.
Business at the store is about evenly
divided between local patrons and tourists.
Swift said his store appeals to international
visitors because he sells Native American-made
products. Items that are handmade in
the United States and have some cultural
history are popular.
“The only thing I hear complaints
about is parking,” Swift said.
The Wild About Music store on Second
Street didn’t make it through
the summer after only a few years in
The store on the 1400 block of Second
planned to close in late August after
a disappointing run that was affected
by store closures nearby and difficulty
in getting people to come to Second
Street to shop. Sales got worse instead
“Part of the problem is the synergy
on this block,” said co-owner
Shelley Meyer, who has a successful
store in Austin, Texas.
Wild About Music had a following before
it opened in Santa Monica and has benefited
from patrons of the neighboring Buca
di Beppo restaurant. That wasn’t
enough, however, to overcome a virtual
retail dead zone that developed since
the store opened, with extensive store
vacancies on the north side of Broadway
from Second Street toward Ocean Avenue.
On top of that, the store faced a huge
Meyer believes the City needs to do
more to improve the ambiance on Second
Even with all the problems Wild About
Music encountered, it hopes to reopen
a store in the Los Angeles area and
will take another look at Santa Monica,
On the restaurant scene, the picture
is also a bit mixed, with some special
factors affecting some eateries.
“We’re a little down from
last year” in Santa Monica, said
Jeff King of King Seafood Co., which
owns i.Cugini and Ocean Avenue Seafood
on Ocean Avenue. Several power outages,
which have plagued parts of Downtown,
are at least partly to blame, King said.
There’s also more competition.
Not only do the power outages affect
business at the time, they leave a bad
taste in the mouths of diners, who may
not return. Some potential customers
don’t feel comfortable booking
because of possible outages, King said.
King Seafood owns 16 restaurants, but
its two in Santa Monica are the only
ones where business is down this year,
King said. It isn’t all bad, however,
because the Santa Monica restaurants
are coming off a very strong year in
“I’m not complaining,”
At Ye Olde King’s Head Pub &
Restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard
business was brisk, manager Lynne Kerr
said in early August.
“We’re busy,” she
said. “We’ve put extra girls
on all the shifts.”
Several factors have boosted business,
including good weather, the popular
sidewalk patio, many visitors from Great
Britain and the band concerts on the
Santa Monica Pier, Kerr said.
Business is down a little bit at Broadway
Deli, said co-owner Marvin Zeidler.
Although business from tourists is doing
well, declining activity at Santa Monica
Place across the street has hurt the
local market, he said.
kind of slow this year. It just seems
that traffic is down.” Jim Gill
only thing I hear complaints about
is parking.” Todd Swift
“We’re busy. We’ve
put extra girls on all the shifts.”