POIPU — Marck Shipley says the “sheer number of businesses” on the South Shore is one reason why his business, Papalani Gelato, saw a drop in sales during the first part of the year.
“Looking back eight years ago, there was only one shopping center and so you had this concentration of spending on the South Shore in one particular area for both food and retail,” said Shipley, Papalani Gelato president.
The number of food options on the South Shore has probably more than doubled, he said.
“I think that affects everyone’s business to some extent. Now you have many, many more retail opportunities for people,” he said. “The part of our business that is visitors, we’ve definitely seen declines in the first part of this year.”
According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, for the month of June, visitor spending on Kauai rose 5.5 percent to $157 million compared to $148 million in 2015. Statewide, total visitor expenditures for June rose 4.3 percent to $1.4 billion versus last year. Kauai had 114,358 visitors in June, up 5.9 percent from 107,966 visitors in June 2015.
But some local businesses reported slow sales.
Lori Cardenas, owner of Aunty Lilikoi Passion Fruit Products, was disappointed with her numbers last month.
“We had a really horrible June,” said Cardenas, whose store is on the Westside. “We were down about 10 percent for June.”
Through June, she said business is down about 5 percent from last year.
Families don’t spend as much money on gifts in the summer, Cardenas said.
“There’s a different type of visitor that comes in the fall,” she said. “The kids are away at school. It’s mainly families in the summer. They usually spend more money like in restaurants and eating and activities.”
Cardenas said visitors make up about 70 percent of her clientele in the summer, while local residents make up the rest of the pie.
“We usually have a really good spring when the snowbirds are here, and then it starts to pick again in October and it’s good for the rest of the year,” she said.
Jacob Thorp, owner of Kauai Golf Club Rentals, also had a slow June.
“I think June was off by 10-12 percent,” said Thorp, whose clientele is about 95 percent visitors. “I feel that for some reason we didn’t have much visitors here the prior months. Everything as far as our over-the-year sales from last year, we seem to be exceeding that coming up to our future bookings.”
Though June was slow, Thorp said sales picked up in July and he is projecting a strong August.
“Sales are up 10 percent in July and coming into August from what it was last year,” he said.
From a resident’s perspective, Shipley said he’s noticed fewer visitors, especially in popular recreational spots.
“It used to be that the South Shore was packed in the summertime,” he said. “I went to Poipu Beach on Tuesday and there were tons of parking places available during the day. It was a beautiful, sunny day. It certainly seems like there are less people here.”
But Shipley, whose clientele is about 70 percent visitors on the South Shore and 60 percent of visitors in Lihue, said he couldn’t be happier with business — even when sales were down during the beginning of the year.
“The store in Poipu is about 12-13 percent above last July and our Lihue store is about 6-8 percent above where we were last July,” he said. “Those two together add up to more than 16 percent. Things are going really well.”