Small businesses were a much sought-after commodity during 2017, with the number of sales transactions rising more than 26 percent from the previous year. That report comes from BizBuySell.com, an online marketplace for small businesses that tracks the number of transactions reported by business brokers. The company counted 9,919 sales, up from 7,842 in 2016.

The median sales price for companies was up 14 percent at $227,880.

In the fourth quarter, sales rose 23 percent from a year earlier. Nearly 30 percent of the businesses sold the last three months of the year were restaurants, bars or other eating and drinking places. Three percent were manufacturers, and 18 percent were retailers. Forty percent were service providers, in a wide range of industries from hair salons to landscapers to dry cleaners.

Eighty percent of the brokers surveyed expect the sales momentum to continue this year.

HOW COLD WAS IT?

The recent wave of arctic cold, snow and ice in the Midwest, East and South hurt retailers -- unless they were selling things to keep people warm.

During the first week of January, demand for blankets was up by nearly three-quarters from a year ago, according to Planalytics, a company that tracks weather and retailing trends. The company is estimating demand for heaters to be up by two-thirds. That's not surprising given that it was the coldest first week of January since 1988 and the third-coldest in more than 55 years. In New York and Washington, the average daily temperature was 17 degrees lower than in January 2016. In Detroit, it was 20 degrees lower.

People were hunkering down inside their homes. Restaurant visits across the country were down 1.3 percent. Retailers -- except for those online -- generally had fewer customers, as did entertainment businesses like movie theaters.

Some potential good news in Planalytics' forecast: The cold is expected to help retailers sell their winter merchandise. That may cut down on their need to discount cold weather wear.

--The Associated Press

Published on: Jan 16, 2018