Monday, June 22, 2009

Las Vegas is alive and well

I am writing to you this time from sunny, hot Las Vegas where I am on my annual pilgrimage with my two teenage boys and 2 of their friends. I thought I'd take a different slant on my blog this month and give you my impressions of the economy from the Las Vegas perspective. I heard how bad it was here and my expectation was to find it nearly dead, based on the press I had heard so far this year. Well, Las Vegas is alive and well. I have tried to conduct my own, personal study while here and talk to as many people as I could about how they see this city now; from cab drivers, who, by the way, are never shy at giving you their opinion; to restaurant managers, dealers, pit bosses, and hotel concierges and finally, my own powers of observation.

First, it is packed here! The people are here. I have taken the the boys to shows every night and they are packed! 2 nights out and 2 sell out shows. One more to go! Every show is discounting its tickets from 20-30% to entice people to go out. And they are.

This being our 5th year going with the boys and we usually end up at at least 1 or 2 five star restaurants. This year, we have decided to scale back a bit and are hitting more of the upper mid-tier restaurants. We have had no problems just walking up and being seated, with no reservations. A year ago, we could have never done this. I was told that the higher end, more fine dining establishments are down, some as much as 30%, while the more casual dining is up. Service has been excellent and the waitstaff, appreciative of the business, are taking extra care in their service. Let's hope this trend stays once the economy rebounds.

It is my experience that the gambling tables bump their minimums up on Friday and Saturday. Usually there are NO $10 tables available and everything is $25 minimum. I have had no problem finding a $10 or $15 minimum table on a Friday or Saturday night. The casino was packed as well. Dealers and pit bosses told me that even the "big whales" are not spending as much gambling.

Hats off to Vegas! They have successfully enticed the public to continue to spend money to travel there. They are offering some great rates at all of the major hotels. Once you are there, they are doing their best to entice you take part in all they have to offer by making it more affordable to "play". While people are not spending as much, they are still going out. Club lines are as long as they have ever been. People still want to go out and enjoy themselves. It is a time for "treading" and keeping your head above water. I have a friend who is a long time Vegas retail shop owner in Ceasars' Palace shops. She indicates that the crowds still flock in but not as many people buying as they use to.

The message has been consistent: spending down a bit, but people are still going out. The good news is that people feel good about going out and are not ready to give up on their entertainment. While times may be tougher than they were a year ago, people still need their entertainment and they value that time. As an owner of 2 retail establishments that is a good thing!

Glen Agritelley