Kansas City stores say Taylor Swift's Eras Tour brought more business than the NFL Draft
Many local retailers reported disappointing sales during the much-hyped NFL Draft. But it was a real "love story" between Swifties and Kansas City restaurants and stores, many of which reported seeing big increases in out-of-town customers.
Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour weekend felt like the perfect night to dress up like hipsters and support Kansas City retailers, local small businesses reported.
“We saw crowds of Swifties stop by after brunch, even after breakfast time and shop,” said Rick Nunez, store manager at Westside Storey, a local boutique carrying casual streetwear, accessories, home decor and gifts with a Kansas City theme.
“We embraced the weekend by playing Taylor Swift music at the store, and my co-manager curated our vintage rings to be inspired by the Eras Tour.”
Visit KC estimated that Swift’s Friday-Saturday concerts July 7-8 at Arrowhead Stadium would result in a direct economic impact of more than $46 million for the Kansas City metro, said Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of Visit KC.
“This widespread impact encompasses in-destination spending by attendees across various sectors, including but not limited to: lodging, dining, transportation, retail and recreation,” Nelson said.
For Westside Storey, Nunez estimated that sales from Friday through Sunday were up 50% from the past six weekends.
“I saw a lot of groups of best friends who were traveling across the country to see her,” Nunez recalled. “They were flying and road tripping. One of my co-workers stated that the Taylor Swift fans are trying to make memories out of the entire experience, so a lot of them want to explore the city as well as go to the concert.”
When visitors think of Kansas City, their minds and taste buds quickly go to barbecue, said Philip Thompson, the corporate executive chef at Q39.
“We were walking into Friday night with 500 reservations, which for the week after a holiday weekend, I’m expecting this time of year to be a little less than that,” Thompson said. “Then we saw a huge number of walk-ins. Whenever people come to Kansas City from out of town, they Google barbecue and Q39 is right up there at the top of the list.”
Q39 saw above average sales from Thursday until Sunday around lunchtime, Thompson continued, noting that peak business was Friday when they saw a 10-15% increase in sales.
The 2023 NFL Draft was estimated to have brought a local economic impact of $100 million to $120 million when it came to Kansas City in April, but many local retailers and small businesses reported disappointing sales during the national event.
For some, the Eras Tour weekend turned out more crowds than the hotly anticipated Draft.
“We did a specialty drink for the Draft, but that didn’t seem to matter,” said Katie Holland, co-owner ofPost Coffee Company. “I wasn’t sure how our ‘Taylor’s Version’ drinks would do because the Draft was the opposite of what we expected. Our average sales were lower during the Draft... But after reviewing the numbers from this past weekend, we had an average of a 20% increase in sales across our locations.”
Post Coffee Company’s location on Broadway Boulevard had a handful of Swift-inspired coffee, teas and alcoholic beverages, and its North Kansas City location had a specialty Lavender Haze tea.
“Those locations did the best, as well as Goat Hill — our coffee shop in Westside — despite not having any specialty drinks at that location,” Holland said. “The Eras drinks were so popular that we will be keeping them at Broadway and in North Kansas City while supplies last.”
Hotel rates for the Era Tour week neared the rates that Kansas City experienced during the NFL Draft, Nelson said, but Swift’s impact was presumed to be more widespread throughout the metro versus concentrated in the central business district.
Q39, which participated in the Draft as a vendor, did not see much of a traffic uptick during April’s Draft weekend, Thompson acknowledged.
“[The Draft] was a good, average week,” Thompson said. “We were expecting that 10 to 15% increases in revenue, but we were normal, which turned out to be a huge win. We heard a lot of people telling us they were down that weekend. The biggest challenge that we saw with our restaurants was that a lot of our local clientele stayed away in anticipation of it being swamped. The difference this past weekend was that a good chunk of our local crowd still came out.”
Westside Storey prepped for the Draft by opening its doors earlier in the day and bringing on additional staff, Nunez said.
“There was all this hype for the NFL Draft, so we developed a pretty responsive action plan; and it was a bit of a letdown,” Nunez said. “It ended up being a below average week and weekend for sales.”
For the next Eras-type event to hit Kansas City, Holland plans to continue prepping her business to ensure that everyone who stops by has an enjoyable experience, she said.
“We want to embrace future events happening in town and just have fun with it,” Holland said. “We will ensure that we’re staffed appropriately. I think a lot of it is up to the city and allowing accessibility to the businesses around the city so that both locals and visitors can show their support.”