Killing the golden goose?
For the last 12 years, I have worked in parking enforcement for the City of Rehoboth Beach, the last seven years enforcing permit parking. This season it was clear that visits to Rehoboth were down and sales were lower than in past years for some places of business. The sometimes-near-empty residential streets and the ease at getting into many restaurants told that story.
A good number of residents asked me during the summer if I thought things were slower. Other than on some very busy Saturdays when day-trippers (who spend little money in town) were in town, I had to agree with them. We discussed the possible reasons: the bad June weather, people traveling abroad for the first time since the pandemic, high gas prices discouraging long trips. But we all agreed on one thing as the main reason from our perspective: Rehoboth seemed to have priced itself beyond the market. Costs for weekly rentals were up, hotel rates were up and, most importantly, costs for food – even at mid-tier restaurants, carry outs and food stands – were up.
Of course, this was all anecdotal. This weekend, I was in Manhattan where everything is very expensive. In the course of walking around the mid-50s along 1st Avenue, to my surprise I found that some Manhattan prices were a bargain compared to Rehoboth. I looked at menu prices at a famous pizza place, Brooklyn Pizza Masters, and found their large pepperoni pizza and large margherita cost $20, while the same pies cost $26 and $30, respectively, at a local place. Likewise, a well-respected Indian restaurant, Imli’s, priced dishes like shicken Tikki masala, vegetable Biriyani and Sang Paneer $3 to $4 less than our local Indian restaurant.
Why? Perhaps lack of competition along with a seemingly captive market. Whatever the reason, it seems to me that if this trend of high prices continues, Rehoboth may experience more than a one-year dip in tourist traffic, business sales and revenue.
I think it is time for Rehoboth businesses, those who advise them and those who regulate them to consider adjusting pricing to keep Rehoboth growing and vibrant into the future. Once a customer, visitor, patron is lost, it is not easy to attract them back.