Winter vs. Retail

Article Published: Feb. 18, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Winter vs. Retail

Old Man Winter is doing his worst, but area experts hope retail will come out on top in the end.
"I'm sure retail spending is off up here in the High Country, simply because it's just too difficult to go out and go shopping," said Dr. Harry Davis, Appalachian State University business professor and finance expert.

It's the worst winter he can remember in his 31 years in the area, "not only for snow, but for cold weather."

While business tends to drop in icy conditions, he calls this winter an "anomaly," with its particularly harsh temperatures, winds and snow drifts.

It's not just locals who are afraid of slipping.

When it snows off the mountain in places like Charlotte and Morganton, those skiers tend to keep their cars and business at home, he said. When the snow is confined to the High Country, it can be an asset, bringing in skiers and snow watchers.

Just ask Boone Chamber of Commerce president Dan Meyer.

"Overall, we're glad that we have the snow and that people do understand this is a place where you can come in the winter to enjoy outdoor activities," he said. "For most people, it's kind of business as usual, in spite of the weather."

The whiteouts attract a certain kind of local consumer, he said.

"In a sense, we own the town during this kind of weather," he said. "For the adventurous, it's kind of a fun time."

Many retailers, however, like Shannon's Curtain, Bed and Bath merchandise manager Sarah Russing, are not having a fun time.

"It's always slow this time of year... but it's definitely worse this year," she said.
Appalachian Music Shoppe owner Bobby Norris agrees.

"It's definitely worse because this winter has been like winters were 20 years ago... people are having a hard time getting around," he said.

Davis may have good news.

Wintry retail slows, like the weather, tend to come to an end, Davis said.

"You have weather like this, people put off spending," he said. "What they do have is this pent-up demand. When the weather gets good, for the most part, the money that would have been spent will be spent.".

It's an observation consistent with what Meyer has seen.

"We're confined to a home for a period of time so we enjoy getting out," he said, and spending money.

Russing hopes they're right. "It hasn't cleared yet, so we'll see," she said.

While it's too early to tell the exact impact of recent blustery weather on their businesses, area retailers and restaurateurs hope consumer will follow the pattern when the roads thaw.

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