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Local businesses feeling the economic boon of winter's blasts
Snowshoes, snowblowers, snow shovels, snowmobiles… most anything with snow in the title is a good trade these days after a few lackluster winters were blown away by Snowmageddon. 2020.
For some businesses like Smith’s Home Hardware on Topsail Road in St. John’s, sales of essentials like shovels and salt haven’t made up for the lost business of store closures during the eight-day state of emergency in the capital city.
When neighbouring municipalities like Mount Pearl and Conception Bay South lifted their restrictions days earlier than St. John’s, shoppers looking for big ticket items like snowblowers took their business there instead.
“Snowblowers, you have them eight, 10 years, maybe more if you look after then. That’s sales we didn’t get,” said Smith’s Home Hardware store manager Gary Vardy.
He still hopes the third order of snowblowers this winter will be cleared out in the next couple months as there’s still a way to go before the snow is over.
Meanwhile, shovels and ice choppers, as well as salt are in big demand.
“Road salt, it’s a job to keep up with it,” Vardy said.
At Outfitters in downtown St. John’s, snowshoes have been the biggest seller since the blizzard.
Marketing director Don Clarke said as soon as the Mount Pearl branch opened midweek and the store in St. John’s on Jan. 25, people were keen to buy them.
He said he understands why St. John’s had to implement the state of emergency when the blizzard hit Jan. 17, but stores like downtown Outfitters had some value to a walking public, who might need its emergency food products, winter jackets and other items.
But as people saw others on social media skiing, snowshoeing and enjoying outdoor activities, interest peaked among the uninitiated, which is still driving snowshoe sales two and a half weeks later.
“People looked like they were having fun,” Clarke said, adding the fervor continues with social media shots from trails like Pippy Park, Three Pond Barrens and East White Hills.
“Some of the enthusiasm is contagious.”
As usual of St. John’s in recent years, sales of ice traction aids continue to balloon.
And people are looking for deals on any winter wear in the clearance section.
Because Outfitters deals in all season goods from winter to hiking and summer activities, people are also coming in looking for travel accessories and summer apparel for sun destination vacations.
At Atlantic Trailer and Equipment Ltd. in Mount Pearl, it’s been busy, busy since restrictions were lifted in that city early the week of Jan. 20.
“It’s going to be a good winter for us no doubt. It’s been a lot of long days let me tell you,” said general manager John Wiseman, who nevertheless sympathizes with competitors who were caught in a bind in St. John’s.
An average winter is 200-300 snowblowers and Atlantic Trailer has already sold about 450 this year, making up for previous below average years.
The business was also busy repairing older Ariens blowers it’s been selling since 2006.
“It’s going to be a good winter for us no doubt. It’s been a lot of long days let me tell you." — John Wiseman
Fun ‘n’ Fast, also located in Mount Pearl, as well as Bay Roberts, has been enjoying a robust winter sales season, said Scott Young, who co-owns the business with brother, Ross.
They’ve been in the trade for 35 years and 2020 is looking particularly good.
“This has been quite a January and start to February,” said Young, who noted it’s a contrast to last year when both winter snow and the economy were soft.
“I’d like to feel that there’s some economic rebound. But snow is such an economic driver, it’s really hard to tell.
“It really worked well out well this year. Black Friday went well, and we got the Christmas trade and just when we really needed it to come to life for the winter business, we couldn’t have scripted it better. It’s been flat out ever since.”
Inventories of snowmobiles are getting thin and snowblowers sold out.
The parts and service departments are busy at both locations.
With lots of snow on the Avalon and across the island it gives snowmobilers lots of choices for destinations near and far, Young noted, adding trails in Goulds and Cochrane Pond are popular.
Meanwhile, it appears being stuck indoors for a week during Snowmageddon indeed had an impact on vacation bookings.
The Telegram asked travel companies if they saw an uptick in bookings to warmer destinations during the Jan. 17-Jan. 24 timeframe when people were stuck at home under mounds of snow.
“We certainly saw a definite spike,” a Sunwing spokesperson said.
Though January is typically a good month for Sunwing for vacation bookings from Newfoundland customers, they said that particular week saw more demand than the same timeframe in previous years.
“Snowmageddon was absolutely good for business.” — Kayla Gavin
An Expedia spokesperson said they also noticed an increase in searches to warm-weather destinations such as Brazil, Mexico and Daytona Beach during Jan. 17-24 this year compared to 2019.
Locally, Kayla Gavin of Above & Beyond Travel TPI, said she’s “absolutely” noticed a boost in business since Snowmageddon.
“There was a 62 per cent hike in quote requests during that time, with about 95 per cent turnover into business. From all inclusives to cruising, it really took off,” she said.
“Snowmageddon was absolutely good for business.”
However, an Air Canada spokesperson said they didn’t notice any change in bookings over the same timeframe in previous years.
Twitter: @BarbSweetTweets & @juanitamercer_