As we enter the final fiscal quarter of 2019, it’s a good time to evaluate sales performance through the first nine months of the year. We achieved two milestones this past month. On July 1, we debuted the new America’s National Parks stores. This was also the first month in fiscal year 2019 in which Eastern National exceeded both prior year and budgeted sales goals. While it’s too soon to quantify the financial impact of the rebranding efforts, it is certainly something we will be following in the months to come.
The grand re-opening of our America’s National Parks stores at Acadia National Park and Cape Hatteras National Seashore dramatically affected overall sales performance for the month of July. We continue to see sales growth in some high-performing park stores based on visitation, enhanced visitor experiences, new park exhibits, and improved inventory management. The new Statue of Liberty Museum improves the visitor experience and seems to be increasing the length of stay on Liberty Island, generating a sales increase—as is the new Tower of Voices exhibit at Flight 93 National Memorial.
The re-designation of Indiana Dunes National Park drew attention and visitation. New exhibits and new products at the recently renovated Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center delivered a sales increase this year.
There were also challenges this season that are offsetting sales gains. The largest factors affecting overall sales performance were business interruption and store closures, contributing close to $1 million in lost revenue year to date (over and above the loss of revenue due to the government shutdown). Two stores in the Caribbean are still closed due to the recovery efforts of the 2017 hurricanes Maria and Irma. Visitor center renovations necessitated the closure of four additional park stores. Other closures attributed to park events or construction projects limited sales opportunities in temporary sales outlets.
An evaluation of sales performance by theme shows that battlefield parks had a downward sales trend over the past few years and continue to perform below company average. Year to date, park stores with a primary or secondary theme interpreting the Civil War are trending -8.5 percent to prior year, Revolutionary War and colonial park stores are trending -8.0 percent to prior year. Comparatively, park stores with nature themes are trending up over +1.1 percent to prior year.
Companywide, Eastern National sales are -0.3 percent to 2018 and -5.5 percent to budget through July. This means that in the past quarter, sales have continually improved, and we’re narrowing the sales gap. The first few weeks of August indicate this positive sales trend continues. And, we still have a few more months to meet our budgeted goals; the fall foliage drives park visitation and increased sales in many park stores. Continued focus on inventory management, excellent customer service, and telling our story will help us to continue the momentum we gained this summer and make up for the loss in revenue due to business interruption.
Together We Climb!