Welcome to snow business!
Imagine, for just a moment, tripping, falling and hurting your foot. Thanks to your indomitable willpower, you somehow manage to get up and continue walking despite the discomfort because you need to get somewhere. Then imagine more than 60 inches of snow falling on you over the course of a month. Now try digging yourself out of that with an injury.
That's snow business folks and it is exactly how many of the merchants in New Canaan are feeling after repeatedly being kicked while they are down by this winter.
"This last week or so has just been awful," Rob Mallozzi, owner of Bob's Sports, said about sales. "We had a good Christmas and beginning of January, but the rest of it has been very difficult."
For Mallozzi, the issue isn't inventory -- it's all about the weather.
"Winter drop-offs in sales are absolutely typical," he added. "The thing is that we have items like down jackets and boots that people would want to buy right now but there is an inconvenience due to driving in bad weather."
Indeed it has become a problem for people to get out to work, let alone to shop. Even in a town where many residents are thrilled with the job that Public Works has done with clearing the snow, the sheer volume of it all has deterred shoppers from venturing downtown. It may take more than a few sunny days to melt enough snow for the sidewalks to become more walker friendly.
"Sales are definitely down," King said. "Even on a clear days, parking is limited because there is still snow blocking spaces."
Still, there is a flip side to all of this. Some businesses believe there is a positive for them underneath the snow pile.
"For us, its almost as if when there is a storm, people are almost looking for more activities to do things inside the house," Ann Lathrop, owner of the Toy Chest, said. "I feel like many parents are buying puzzles and other games to keep their kids occupied inside the house. So there has been an affect but not too much."
For Mark Noonan of Structured Solutions, snow comes with good and bad results. His company sells snow removal products as well as other gardening and landscaping products useful in the fall and spring. This year, Noonan sold out of all his snow removal products by early December.
"We had increased our production by half but it wasn't enough," Noonan said. "I do not think anyone anticipated a winter like this where the demand would be so high. Just have to look forward to next year with that."
With sales down in New Canaan, some might wonder if it is an isolated incident. News across the country show both sides. According to a study by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, the housing market severely dropped in Massachusetts with single family home sales down 7.3 percent in January. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group representing more than 30 of the country's largest brands and stores, sales jumped as high as five percent in January, significantly up from last January's 3 percent. According to that same study, Target's sales only posted a 1.7 percent increase, much lower than expected due to the snowfall in the northeast.
Whatever the case may be elsewhere, merchants in New Canaan are clearly affected. Oftentimes it has just been because the stores could not open for business all the time.
"We have actually been open everyday," Dan Mulhern, owner of M. Milestones, said. "I think maybe I have seen around 60 percent of the stores open all the time. But the weather has impacted sales. Numerous times, I feel as if parents have had to stay home with their kids."
Both the Linen Shop and Bob's Sports have had to close their stores for a few days due to inclement weather. For Mallozzi, it was more than just closing the story that became a problem.
"Our busiest day would have to be Saturday," Mallozzi said. "But one Saturday I had to close the parking lot because it was the only day I could have it cleared out. It has not been good, we have just been hit very hard."
With much of February and all of March to go, merchants will have to keep fighting mother nature for sales for a little while longer. That's snow business in New Canaan.