Many people cherish the arrival of snow in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. After all, what else make streetscapes look as picturesque as a fresh blanket of white fluff?
But for independent retailers, snowy weather before Christmas can be an unwelcome gift. This year’s large December snowfall and unusually cold temperatures throughout much of Northeast, New England and the Midwest could take a large toll on small businesses’ holiday sales.
Bad weather before the holidays can be especially bad because holiday sales can account for 20 to 40 percent of merchant's annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation.
Lowell Steinberg, owner of Floral & Hardy of Skippack, Pennsylvania, says that small merchants in his town have seen sales drop considerably this holiday season, and they blame the recent snow and icy roads and sidewalks. “We had a merchant meeting [last week] and the consensus is everyone is down from 2012, considerably actually,” he told the CBS Philly. “It’s not us; it’s not the shops. It’s simply the weather this year.”
He said that Small Business Saturday was a ringing success this year, so local retailers were hopeful. But their fortunes seem to have changed.
Retailers in Alexandria, Virginia’s Old Town shopping district were walloped by a snowstorm last week that brought a few inches of snow to the Washington, D.C. area. Even though the snow melted rather quickly, the two days of bad weather over the crucial holiday-sales season were painful.
"It has hurt us—those two days—because this is the critical part of the year that we get in the black,” Amy Rutherford, owner of Red Barn Mercantile in Alexandria, told WTOP. Rutherford says she plans to bring new merchandise into her store and start marking down items earlier than usual this holiday season in hopes of driving up sales before Christmas.
Small retailers can take a bigger hit from bad weather than large big-box retailers for a variety of reasons. For one, many people view shopping at small retailers as discretionary—whereas they might brave the roads and go to Target or Wal-Mart to pick up daily necessities or groceries.
Moreover, many independent retailers are located along town’s “Main Street” business districts that require shoppers to park and walk from store to store.
Read more articles on holiday shopping.
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