Snow puts freeze on retail sales

    The record-breaking snowfall has clobbered some Delaware businesses. But experts say sales could rebound when the weather clears up.

    It’s the lunchtime rush at the Tiki Sub Shop in Wilmington.

    Though on this Friday, two days after the latest blizzard, it’s not much of a rush.

    There’s an order for tuna on wheat. Another for a turkey sub, extra onions. But not much else.

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    Twenty-five subs during the average lunch hour before the storm have become five to 10.

    “It’s dropped off a lot,” said Adriyel Moosreiner, an employee at the shop, between orders. “I’m glad the storm is over.”

    During the recent storms, most businesses — including the Tiki Sub Shop — lost 100 percent of their profits on the days they were forced to close.

    Now they’ve reopened only to discover that many customers are still at home.

    “I don’t have any hard facts at this point but it’s absolutely had an impact,” said Jayne Armstrong, District Director of the Delaware office of the U.S. Small Business Administration. “Obviously retailers are getting hurt because people aren’t going out.”

    Even worse, Armstrong says businesses are experiencing a double-whammy: lost sales plus the high cost of snow removal.

    “When you think about it, in today’s economy if you add that on top of everything for small businesses, you know they have to be hurting,” she said.

    But the snowfall hasn’t frozen all retail activity.

    For some — like pizza shops that deliver and grocery stores —  it seems there’s no business like snow business.

    And then there are those businesses, like Action Hardware in Wilmington, that should have made a killing on items like snow shovels and ice melters, but didn’t.

    “We haven’t benefited this past week because we completely sold out of all the merchandise heading into the storm and couldn’t get replenished until yesterday,” said General Manager Rick Creese. “Even then it was minimal at best.”

    Creese says ordering merchandise for the winter season is always a gamble, because you have to order so far in advance. One year you could order too much, the next year not enough.

    By the time a record-setting season comes along, it’s too late.

    “It’s a hit and miss kind of game,” he said. “And we missed.”

    Armstrong says for many retailers, sales will rebound.

    For example,  as long as shoppers don’t get impatient and buy something online, she says, they will return to the stores and make the purchases they planned on making earlier.

    But it’s different for restaurants — and sub shops. Armstrong says a lot of their sales are lost forever, “just because of the type of business they are.”

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