The unseasonably warm temperatures this winter are leaving some small businesses out in the cold.
The average annual temperature for 2006 in the contiguous U.S was the warmest on record, according to a Jan. 9 report put out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). More specifically, the average U.S temperature for December 2006 was the fourth warmest since records were first kept in 1895.
This atmospheric anomaly has had strong repercussions for businesses that rely on snow for their sales.
Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Macungie, PA, about 45 miles north of Philadelphia, was open for just four days in mid-December and then closed because the weather was not cold enough to make snow. Usually, the resort opens in mid-December and stays open until March, according to Mary Bortz, a spokeswoman for Bear Creek. “From year to year, we’ll typically have 40 to 50 inches of snow by the beginning of January,” Bortz said, “and now [as of Jan. 9] we have just a dusting.” Because the slopes were closed, Bear Creek had to cut some jobs, Bortz said.
Bear Creek wasn’t the only ski resort in the mid-Atlantic region that suffered. At Shawnee Mountain Ski Area in the Poconos in New Jersey, only five of 23 slopes and trails were open in December.
Retailers that support the skiing and snowboarding industries have also seen business freeze up because of the unusually warm weather. Pedigree Ski Shop, a sports apparel company specializing in ski gear, has seen decreased sales at its two stores in New York and one in Connecticut. “The fact that I have time to speak on a Tuesday afternoon when the kids are out of school, [shows that] business has been less than lackluster,” said Barry Betz, equipment manager at one of the Pedigree Ski Shop stores.
Further north, near Portland, ME, John Larry, who works at Cooks Ace Hardware, noticed that fewer customers have come in to buy typical winter gear. “We usually sell a lot of salt and shovels this time of year,” said Larry, “but there was just two inches before Christmas and then the snow went away.”
On the flip side, some small businesses have experienced increased sales because of the warm weather. Not far from Cooks Ace Hardware in Portland, a Cold Stone Creamery ice cream franchise has been much busier than usual this time of year. “Even with our reduced inventory, we’ve still made hundreds of dollars more this January than last January,” said the shift manager at the shop. “I could have played crossword puzzles in here this time last year, and today I was pretty busy. There are more people in the store.”
Similarly, golf courses and golf shops have enjoyed more business. For example, Montauk Downs Municipal Golf Course at the tip of New York’s Long Island is open all year round, weather-permitting. The recent balminess has meant the links have stayed open, and according to the head Golf Pro there, Kevin Smith, golfers have been out on the course. Smith is also the owner of the golf shop that operates at the Montauk Downs course, and for him, the mild weather has been a good thing. “There are a lot of people on the course and that helps a lot with sales in the store,” he said.