'More survival than despair'
To the editor:As publisher of five tourist maps and guides, one specifically targeted to the retail aspects of North Conway, I would like to respond to your recent article about, "The state of retail in North Conway."Many of my retail clients are saying it has been a good year so far, in spite of a lack of natural snow. And if crowded outlet parking lots and a vibrant village are any indications ... well, then indications are that retail is not doing so badly.Yes, there are some empty storefronts and "for rent" signs in a few mall windows but many of those spaces are in the process of being rented, and the few that have remained vacant are due for major renovations before they can be rented.My research with brokers in the area who specialize in commercial leases says that the vacancy rate is closer to 20 to 25 percent, and by the beginning of July will be closer to 15 percent. In North Conway Village, there are only a few retail spaces for rent, with some even having a waiting list of interested tenants.At HospitalityMaps.com, a tourism website I developed to promote the Lakes Region, Mt. Washington Valley, the White Mountains and the Great North Woods, we received more than 150,000 unique views in 2011. This year, we are up more than 3,000 unique views per month. If we continue this trend, we'll get more than 10 million hits and 200,000 unique views by the end of 2012.That's a lot of people, every day from all over the world, planning a trip to the region.We run analytics programs on all of our websites so we know the who, what and where of the online traffic going to these sites. The data clearly shows that retail successes this year are outpacing the rather dismal picture you are painting in your editorial about "The state of retail in North Conway."As important, even in this economic downturn, we have never had to decrease our print runs. In fact, this year we will run out of the Shopping map, a 100,000 piece printing, a month and a half early.With any tough economy, there is belt-tightening all around. But from my vantage point, I see a lot more survival than despair. Navigating a tough economy is just part of the fabric which has made this area a vibrant four-season destination. And retail, for better or worse, continues to be one of our top attractions.Kimberly BealsCorporate Communications Inc.North Conway