March 4, 2014 in Business

Certain companies hot during cold winter

Joseph Pisani Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Coleen Riley purchases a snow shovel at Ace Hardware in West Lafayette, Ind., last month.
(Full-size photo)

Fast frigid fact

Only 32 winters have been colder in the last 119 years, according to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NEW YORK – The harsh winter has been rough for some businesses, but for a lucky few, the frigid weather means more cold, hard cash.

Ace Hardware is having its best winter in more than a decade for snowblower and shovel sales. Waterproof boots are on back order at clothing maker L.L. Bean. And more people are staying home and ordering gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and booze from Delivery.com.

“The concept of a polar vortex doesn’t feel good, but it’s good for business,” said Kane Calamari, a vice president at Ace Hardware Corp.

With more Americans stuck indoors, customers are ordering up more meals and arranging to have their laundry picked up through Delivery.com’s website and smartphone app. Sales at the company, which operates in major metro areas such as New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., rose 30 percent in January and February compared with the year before. Orders for soups, wine and vodka have spiked.

People are “trying to stay warm,” said Neeraj Sharma, the site’s vice president of marketing. “They’re hibernating.”

But sooner or later, they have to dig out. Sales of shovels and snowblowers have doubled at Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware. The company is also shipping salt and other ice melters to southern regions such as Atlanta, which rarely have to deal with severe weather. Total sales are up 20 percent so far this year compared with a year ago.

The bad weather hasn’t been so kind to other companies. Businesses that rely on customers to come to them have been hit hard. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Macy’s Inc. said their sales were hurt because of store closures. At one time during January, about 30 percent of Macy’s total stores were closed. Whole Foods Market Inc. said shoppers are making fewer trips to its grocery stores.

When people do venture out into the cold, they stock up on products that protect against frigid temperatures. Carmex, known for its yellow jars of lip balm, said sales are up 9 percent over the past eight to 10 weeks from the same period a year ago.

Pawz Dog Boots, which makes colorful rubber booties that safeguard paws from salt and snow, said its sales in North America have more than doubled.

L.L. Bean can’t make its rubber and leather boots fast enough. The boots, known as Bean Boots, are made by hand in Freeport, Maine. The company hired 40 new workers, but it will take them at least six months to be fully trained.

“We’re making them as fast as we can,” L.L. Bean spokeswoman Carolyn Beem said. “You can’t just increase production overnight.”

Ridgewood, N.J.-based Xtreme Snow Pros, which provides businesses with snow-removal services including plowing, deicing and hauling, has enjoyed its best winter sales since the business started six years ago. Business is up 15 to 20 percent compared with last year, Manager Matt Malyar said.

“For a company like us, it’s been an awesome year,” Malyar said. “But it’s also great for the workers,” who have logged nearly three times as many hours as they did two years ago, when the winter was mild.

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