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Snowstorm Stalls Local Shopping

Last weekend’s heavy snowfall took its toll on area retail stores, a random survey revealed.

“Friday was not really an issue, a lot of people came out early that day,” said Belk Manager Bill Foley. “Saturday, well, it was what it was,” he added.
But the department store picked up traffic beginning Sunday, and Foley was hoping that trend would continue at the store through its 6 p.m. Christmas Eve closing.

Belk — which was open from 7:30 a.m. until midnight Wednesday and from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve — is having “a positive season,” according to the store manager.

“There are definitely pluses to last year regarding people’s optimism,” he said, “and that’s been a good thing. It’s reflected in their buying.”

The store manager is definitely optimistic, noting that in the last six months, “we can definitely see a stronger buying pattern.”

And, he adds, the great buys will not end Christmas Eve. “We’ve got some great sales that start at 6 a.m. the day after Christmas,” added the manager.

At True Value Hardware the heavy snow generated its own sales, with owner George Hayes quickly selling out of snow shovels, toboggans, sleds and discs. Salt and window scrapers also sold out.

“Saturday we opened with a skeleton crew at 10 a.m. and mostly cleared the parking lot,” recalled Hayes. “We got our lot in good shape and closed about 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

“We did a little business, but mostly if I could have had a recording that just said we were out of sleds ….,” he added with a chuckle. A kerosene heater and bicycles were purchased, but Hayes says there was little action but it was primarily slow on Saturday.

However, this week has been fairly brisk, according to Hayes, but he said he didn’t know if the store would make up for the lost Saturday before Christmas, which is usually a big day. “I really think it’s more the economy than the snow at this point,” he added. However, Hayes dubbed 2009 “a good year overall, a little bit ahead of last year, and we appreciated all of our customers,” he emphasized.

At Boston Lumber, the weather carried a definite impact. “A heavy snowfall Friday took its toll,” said owner Leigh Felton. “We were way off with almost no business Saturday. We can’t get to the job sites,” he added, so lumber, insulation and other building commodities remain in-house as contractors also struggle with weather issues.

The slump in the housing industry also takes its toll on building suppliers, according to Felton.

WalMart also felt the impact.

“Obviously with the decrease in customers Saturday, it (the snowstorm) was definitely a negative impact,” said WalMart Manager Kou Yang. “I honestly don’t think we can make it up because Saturday is traditionally such a big day,” he added.

Not only did customers have trouble navigating the snowy landscape, so did the store’s associates. “We were open all day Saturday, but people couldn’t get here, and all of our associates couldn’t get here,” added Yang. Nevertheless, business continued at the popular store.

On Christmas Eve, WalMart remained open until 8 p.m. instead of closing at 6 p.m., but that decision was made several weeks prior to Friday’s snowstorm, according to Yang. The store will open at 6 a.m. the day following Christmas.

Overall, Yang described the tight economy as hurting everyone. “It’s a tough year and definitely the weather didn’t help it.”