By Jessica Isaacs
As kids head back to school and football fans are gearing up for a new season, local merchants are reflecting on how they did over the summer. Some in Blowing Rock say they’re seeing the best numbers they’ve had since the recession that began in 2008.
As summer in the High Country draws to a close, Blowing Rock Chamber Executive Director Charles Hardin said business owners in the town are reporting good numbers and a successful season.
“For the most part we’re hearing that many of them are up over last year,” Hardin said. “Many of them are saying they’ve had a good to great year. We’ve found out that means they’re back to where they were before 2007, which was the last great year we had.”
Because sales tax collections don’t go through the town, Hardin said the occupancy tax is a more accurate indicator of how local businesses did over the summer.
“Our occupancy tax collection, which is the only real measure we have, was not only up this year, but now we are back in the numbers we had prior to the recession,” Hardin said. “The occupancy tax is up eight percent from last year.
“That, in itself, is a good year. That’s through June 30. July and August have also been strong and the businesses are happy about that.”
Hardin said several factors may have contributed to the uptick in business in Blowing Rock this summer, including the weather and the overall state of the national economy.
“Overall, I think the economy has improved in the major metropolitan areas that our traffic comes from, like Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem and places like that,” he said. “Those economies are actually doing well.
“The other thing is the weather. We had no major weather problems this summer — it’s not been too wet and it’s just been a lot of fairly nice weather. It’s been fairly warm this year, too, so people like to come up here and escape the heat.”
Blowing Rock merchants are experiencing a lull in business this week with school back in session, but Hardin said he expects traffic to pick back up over Labor Day weekend.
In the mean time, business and shop owners in the town are gearing up for leaf season, which will draw thousands of visitors into the High Country during the fall and will carry many of those establishments through the winter.
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