Rain delivers mixed results for businesses during Heritage

dburley@islandpacket.comApril 21, 2014 

Tournament attendees leave Harbour Town Golf Links the afternoon of April 18, 2014, after the second round of the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing was suspended by heavy rain.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

For some businesses, the heavy rain during the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing was a stroke of luck.

But for several in Sea Pines, Friday's downpour and the weekend's wet weather put a damper on retail and ticket sales, business owners and tournament officials said Monday.

"When you have a day when it doesn't stop raining, that can really hurt attendance," said Angela McSwain, marketing director for the Heritage Classic Foundation, which puts on the annual event at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Although official ticket sales figures are not yet available, Sunday was the tournament's busiest day, she said.

Fans filled the off-site parking lots at Honey Horn and the Hilton Head Island High School complex, which hold about 2,500 spaces combined.

The lots were used because rain earlier in the week washed out Sea Pines' parking. Almost 4 inches fell on the golf course throughout the 46th annual tournament.

Friday brought the most rain, proving the worst for tournament sales, McSwain said.

The daylong rain drove fans from Harbour Town, eventually forced the PGA Tour to suspend play, and wiped out business for concessions and merchandise tents.

Sales were soft because of the "cold and rainy weather," merchandise tent manager Caroline Dennison said.

Other businesses in Sea Pines felt the effects, too.

"We had a steady flow of customers until Friday when it started raining," said Margit Vaughn, manager of Currents, a clothing store on Lighthouse Road.

Though her weekend sales were down, cold weather earlier in the week helped her store sell more sweaters and scarves than usual this time of year, she said.

For some shop owners, the rain was a blessing.

Le Spa, a full service spa and salon in Sea Pines, saw sales soar during the week, especially on rainy days.

"I think because of the weather, that made us even busier," manager Lourri Norris said.

The salon on Lighthouse Road gave countless pedicures, manicures and massages, she said. On Thursday and Friday, the firm stayed open an hour past its usual closing time.

Hotel representatives said sales were good but could have been better.

Occupancy rates at the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island hovered around 95 percent Thursday and Friday. They dipped to 90 percent Saturday, according to Chris Bracken, director of sales and marketing.

"We had some people leaving early and canceling because of the weather," he said. "It definitely played a factor in us not selling out."

Easter might have played a role, he said.

"Some people left Saturday because of Easter; they wanted to get home with their families," he said.

McSwain, the tournament official, said the opposite.

When official ticket numbers come in, she hopes to see an attendance spike for Easter Sunday.

"Easter usually brings more people to the island and more people to the Heritage," she said.

Staff writer Laura Oberle contributed to this report. Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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