Football losses hurt sales for Auburn businesses

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Posted: Monday, November 26, 2012 7:10 pm

A row of Nos. 10, 43 and 5 Auburn University football jerseys hung undisturbed at J&M Bookstore on Monday.

The sports apparel, much like the Tigers’ season, seemingly never made it off the rack.

“At J&M, we always prepare for a winning year… but this year’s non success or lack of having a team that showed up for games really put a damper on the Auburn fan this year,” Trey Johnston, J&M Bookstore owner said.

Johnston said one of the biggest things he’ll lose this year are sales that would have taken place during what in recent years has been bowl season for the Tigers.

“There will be nothing going on at that time this year,” said Johnston, recalling the robust sale of AU merchandise nearly two years ago when the Tigers went on their national championship run in 2010. “Right now everybody is very concerned and embarrassed to have fallen so far so fast.”

Johnston, like other business owners participated in Cyber Monday -- the Monday following Black Friday during which shoppers to take advantage of online deals.

“Two years ago I think we had 150 online orders at this time. It was incredible,” Johnston said. “This morning we had 12 orders.”

Also seeing less foot traffic in his store just a block up from Johnston’s downtown Auburn store is AuburnArt owner, Cliff Hare.

“For us, this is probably one of our worst years on record,” said Hare, owner of a store that specializes in memorabilia. “There’s definitely a correlation between the football score and sales figures.”

Hare said his and other area businesses are looking to the Christmas season for sales to pick back up.

“So far, we’ve kept our heads above water,” Hare said. “This is one of the ebbs and flows of business and being in Auburn.”

While downtown Auburn merchants might be feeling the pinch of a down football year, the occupancy numbers for Auburns hotels and attracting people to the area for events other than football are way up, said Robyn L. Bridges, Auburn and Opelika Tourism Bureau public relations director.

“We’ve worked really hard over the past five or six years to make sure we’re not living and dying by eight weekends a year,” Bridges said.

While she admits that the AU football season has not been great in terms of hotel occupancy compared to what it has been in past years, they were pleasantly surprised to see increases in occupancy rates of 11and nearly 19 percent in September and October respectively with one less game in September and the same number of games in October, Bridges said.

Bridges pointed to events like the Super 6, the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s state championship football games that will be hosted at Jordan-Hare Stadium Dec. 5-7 as events that will benefit the area economy. In 2010, the event drew more than 50,000 fans and brought over $1 million into the local economy, according to the AO Tourism Bureau website. This weekend, AU’s James E. Martin Aquatic Center will host the AHSAA state swim meet.

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