Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Retail sales in county begin to rebound

October 24, 2001

There's no doubt that the Sept. 11 terrorism has affected the economy in Leavenworth County, where sales of big-ticket items have dropped.

"After September 11, we didn't have a customer in the sales department for approximately two weeks," said Bobby McEnerney, general manager of Kincaid Motors in Leavenworth.

Sales were the slowest in the 11 years since he started work at the dealership, he said. Then, GMC came out with a zero percent financing. After that, McEnerney said, sales soared.

"It's because of the interest," he said. "If somebody can buy a new car and have zero interest, they can afford the car."

McEnerney said that at Kincaid, which sells Pontiac, Buick and GMC, the average price of new vehicles runs from $22,000 to $27,000.

At Lee's Furniture in Leavenworth, Felix Derezinski, manager, said his customers seem now to be more concerned about prices.

"But we've just adjusted the prices and the products we carry," Derezinski said. "We're just adjusting to the times."

This means, he said, that he's hunting for bargains to pass along to his customers. This is a

flexibility that medium-sized stores such as Lee's have, he said.

"I think a smaller store can react to the customers' needs quicker than a large chain store can," he said.

The company's strategy has paid off. Derezinski said sales this month are higher than in October 2000.

Derezinski, who has been with the 49-year-old company for 22 years, said he is determined to keep a positive outlook.

"The president said we need to keep the economy going, we can't run scared," he said. "Are we cutting back on employees? No. We're keeping our growth as much as we can. We're trying to grow our business, it's grown 49 years, every year we've been here."

Art Hancock, Tonganoxie Realtor, said potential homebuyers seem to be casting a wary eye on home purchases.

"Normally, September is a busy time for us," Hancock said. "But sales stopped September 11 for a couple of weeks."

Hancock said home sales also tend to fluctuate in correlation with the price of gasoline.

"You can tell a difference in the activity," Hancock said. "The number of calls increased when gas prices went down."

While home sales have dropped, interest in rentals has risen, he said.

"Probably more people are looking for rentals right now," he said. "At least once a day we have someone call who is looking for a place to rent."

Hancock said he expects the area to work its way out of the slump.

"I think home sales will pick back up more next year," he said. "I'm sure they will. You've got to be an optimist in this business."

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