No such thing as “off” season on Fifth Avenue anymore
August 14, 2013
No such thing as ‘off’ season on Fifth Avenue anymore
By VICTORIA MACCHI
Naples Daily News
Saturday, August 10, 2013
NAPLES — The dog days of summer are looking good for downtown Naples businesses.
Jumps in June and July sales are the best in years, according to business organizations and managers meaning black may soon be the new red for some locales during the normally sluggish offseason.
“We’ve heard that everybody almost across the board, people have thought that the summer is going very well,” said Mike Reagen, president of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce.
As of March or April, General Manager Rick Rinella is usually telling some of the Truluck’s restaurant staff to stay home.
It’s after the peak of Southwest Florida’s busy season, an economic last hurrah before the meager summer months.
On a recent Sunday, the restaurant was full enough that they had to cordon off a section until more wait staff could arrive, and he’s hired more back-of-the-house runners and washers to keep pace.
“We’re getting to a position where our business model in the summer is increasing,” Rinella said.
Citing a 12 percent to 14 percent increase over the same period last year, he’s observed higher volume as well as bigger tabs from customers at the Fifth Avenue South restaurant.
“People are feeling better about opening up their wallets,” especially bumping up to a higher-priced bottle of wine, he noted.
Collier County tourism tax revenues hit a four-year high in March, approaching $3.5 million this year — almost $1 million more than in 2010, according to monthly figures compiled by Florida Gulf Coast University professor and researched Gary Jackson.
However, by April — the end of the peak season in Southwest Florida — that dips sharply to about $1.5 million before bottoming around September.
From March to September, some local businesses operate at a loss, hoping to make up for negative balance sheets in the coming season. Closing the gap between the financial peaks and valleys would mean steadier work for employees and less risk off-season.
Reagen, Jackson and Rinella believe the higher summer numbers are indicative of an increasing year-round population in Southwest Florida.
“The 12-month population is growing each year, slowly and steadily,” Reagan said. “There will always be some gap… But I think our core population is going to continue to grow.”
Which means summer isn’t about limiting losses anymore. It’s a chance to make money when businesses were accustomed to taking a hit year after year.
In an email to businesses on the street, Lise Sundrla, who heads the Fifth Avenue South Business Improvement District, encouraged businesses to keep later hours to catch customers looking to avoid the summer heat by heading out after sunset.
“It’s not the same as the numbers in December or January, but they are approaching. But they will never be the same, they cannot be the same,” Kosta Jankovski, manager at Fifth Avenue’s Vergina restaurant, where management has also observed a jump in dining traffic.
© 2013 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online