Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Sun NFR coverage
Cowboys and cowgirls will have a herd of opportunities to stock up on boots, jeans, hats, accessories and memorabilia during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Retailers and their suppliers each year look forward to the 10-day event starting today.
Sales executives know tourists generally are inclined to shop simply because while they are on vacation, they have time to do so.
And in the case of the NFR, they say, potential customers look forward to the event because they know they can find unique western products and the latest styles — goods that often can’t be found back home.
For some rodeo visitors, shopping is the highlight of their trip to Las Vegas. They come to town without rodeo tickets, planning to browse at stores and watch the action on hotel big-screen TVs.
“People save their money and wait the entire year to shop at NFR,” said Boot Barn executive Jon Grundmeyer.
While local western wear stores are gearing up for their annual rodeo promotions, the highest-profile retail sales venues will be set up in hotels and the city’s largest convention centers.
“It’s an experience. We have people lined up at 9:30 to get in the door at 10 a.m.,” said Anne Aznarez, manager of the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show.
That show, now in its 26th year, will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center from today to Dec. 10. With 311,000 square feet of space, it will host about 350 retailers and exhibitors. Organizers expect the event to draw 145,000 attendees and generate sales of $3 million to $4 million.
Big names in the western apparel world will be there, including Wrangler, Resistol, Stetson, Panhandle Slim, Roper, Boot Barn and Sheplers, Aznarez said.
In addition, western-themed art and furniture will be sold, she said.
Attendance counts at the rodeo retail sales events far exceed the number of visitors in town for the rodeo. That’s because the events cater to repeat shoppers, locals and visitors in town for reasons other than the rodeo.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said the 43,425 NFR attendees in 2010 spent an estimated $52 million on hotel rooms and other expenditures, not counting gambling. Eighty-seven percent, or 37,975 of those attendees, were from out of town.
Retail sales by those attendees are included in the $52 million, but aren’t broken down specifically.
So while there’s no way to say how much rodeo fans spend on western wear and goods each year, retailers say it’s a large amount and they expect similar results this year.
One of the big NFR retail players is Boot Barn, a California-based chain with one warehouse-size Las Vegas store stocking about 15,000 pairs of boots.
Boot Barn says that in addition to promotions at that location, it will have another 15,000 pairs of boots and other merchandise for sale at the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show and a similar show at Mandalay Bay, the Roper Cowboy Marketplace.
“We expect to sell a good amount of those” at prices that average in the $129 to $139 range, said Grundmeyer, event manager for the company.
Boot Barn and manufacturer Roper promoted the rodeo this year with a contest awarding four couples a trip to the city and tickets to see singer Joe Nichols during the show. The contest attracted about 9,000 entries at stores and on the Boot Barn website.
Grundmeyer said that over the 10 days of the rodeo, the company plans to have 50 to 60 people in town at various times — booking about 600 room nights at hotels — and says that’s in addition to 30 to 40 vendors that send personnel to Las Vegas to promote their goods.
“NFR is the biggest thing we do all year,” he said.
And what do NFR customers typically ask Boot Barn salespeople?
“Do we have rodeo tickets?” Grundmeyer said, adding the answer is no.
They also want to know what the most expensive boots and hats are.
The answers are Lucchese Limited Edition 125th Anniversary boots running about $12,500 per pair and a Resistol Black Gold hat that sells for about $400.
And when visitors want to know where to go country and western dancing, the answer is Stoney’s Rockin’ Country, which has its own warehouse-size nightclub just down the street from Boot Barn on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Elsewhere around town during the rodeo:
• The Stetson Country Christmas Western Gift Expo runs today to Dec. 11 at the Sands Expo Center. The event is in its 18th year and is expected to draw more than 100,000 “western lifestyle’’ shoppers.
• The Roper Cowboy Marketplace is returning for its eighth year at the rodeo and will run today to Dec. 10 at Mandalay Bay. The event also is expected to attract more than 100,000 people.
• The NRS Shopping Experience is planned from Sunday through Dec. 10 at the Marquee Ballroom in the MGM Grand. NRS stands for National Roper’s Supply and is a supplier of items ranging from western apparel and boots to horse supplies, ropes, saddles and horse trailers.
• Sheplers Western Wear, which has two Las Vegas stores, plans to run a sale tent in the parking lot at its Sam’s Town location during the rodeo.
• The newly opened Pinto Ranch western wear store at the Fashion Show mall is bringing in designers for various brands with trunk shows throughout the rodeo. It plans an NFR kickoff party Saturday with Cowgirl magazine and singer Christian Kane. VEGAS Magazine, a sister publication to the Las Vegas Sun, is teaming with the store Dec. 8 for “NFR Western Luxe Day” promoting Old Gringo boots. On Dec. 9-11, Pinto Ranch models will show off western styles at the mall’s center runway with fashion shows at various times.