SHERIDAN — During the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce’s lunch earlier this week, Sheridan Travel and Tourism Director Shawn Parker made a presentation that suggested downtown businesses could see benefits from extending their hours.
Parker offered statistics, taken from a report published by Roger Brooks International and the University of Wyoming Commission Study Center, that showed 75 percent of all retail purchases in the U.S. take place between 4 p.m. and midnight, and 70 percent of all consumer retail spending takes place after 6 p.m. But in Sheridan’s downtown, most businesses are closed during those hours.
Those findings, Parker said, correspond with observations he and other members of Sheridan Travel and Tourism have made on shopping habits downtown, particularly during tourism season.
“Sheridan is a very strong tourism community and tourists arrive in town a little bit later,” Parker said. “Most bus tour companies get in between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the hotels, a lot of visitors have been driving all day, so they get in a little bit later, and we’ve heard feedback that it would be nice if things were open a little bit later on and on the weekends.”
Parker acknowledged, however, that the study was not conducted in Sheridan and the conclusions may not directly apply. Sheridan’s downtown has a lot of small mom-and-pop businesses that may not have the staff to stay open into the later hours.
He stressed that the statistics are intedned to provide downtown businesses with more data to inform their decision making, not prescribe changes.
But Bighorn Design Studio owner PJ Treide said, in his experience, those findings bear out.
In the summer and during the week before Thanksgiving, Bighorn Design stays open two to three hours past its regular closing time, as well as from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Treide said his business has been extending its hours during busy seasons for about three years and it has proven to be profitable.
“It’s been awesome; I mean our sales are fantastic, it’s profitable,” Treide said.
He mentioned, however, that business has been slightly hampered on Sundays because most of the other downtown businesses are closed and fewer people visit downtown as a result.
“I’ve talked to some of the downtown motels and others and they actively tell tourists, ‘Don’t go downtown on Sunday because nothing is open,’” Triede said.
Bighorn Design has tried to work through that by offering promotions and coupons exclusive to Sundays, but Treide said the biggest boost to Sunday business would come from a more active downtown.
“I think what is really going to change a mindset is having more buy-in from the other retailers downtown,” Treide said.
He is optimistic, particularly because of the discussions about the future of downtown stemming from the city’s streetscape project.
When the project’s consultants visited Sheridan in April they said retail businesses are suffering because of the growth of online shopping. To counter that, they said the city should focus on “place making” and encouraging more pedestrian activity downtown.
In addition to a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, Treide said he sees an opportunity to create student housing downtown to accommodate Sheridan College’s continued growth.
“I think you could create a very vibrant, younger population on top of the locals, on top of the tourist traffic, that in the next five years is going to really change the way downtown Sheridan is without losing any of its historic value,” Treide said.