Weather changes businesses' focus

Posted: Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Wet, cold, miserable. No matter what you call it, the icy weather is hindering more than just Kenai Peninsula residents' ability to walk from their houses to their cars safely. It's also affecting the income and sales at a variety of local businesses.

"The weather is definitely affecting our business," said Brian Miller of Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna.

However, Miller said these effects are both positive and negative.

"We can barely keep ice cleats on the shelves," he said in regard to the upside of the icy weather.

"We're going through as many ice cleats as we can put on the shelves. It's our number one item right now," he added.

As to the down side, Miller said other more typically snow-related sales are on the decline.

"Snow shovels and sled sales have pretty much slowed or stopped. We're also not selling as much cold weather gear, since less people are doing outdoor activities," he said.

Miller added that sales of ice fishing gear such as ice augers, rods and tackle also are down. This comes as a contrast to most years, when many peninsula residents already are stocking up in preparation for the annual Trustworthy Hardware Ice Fishing Derby.

In Kenai, Alaska Industrial Hardware Inc. (AIH) reported similar sales trends, according to assistant manager Dave Gilbertson.

"We're selling a lot of ice cleats. Especially the Servus brand with the replaceable carbide studs. Those work well and seem to be very popular right now," Gilbertson said.

Gilbertson said with more rain than snow, AIH also is selling more knee boots than usual for this time of year.

"The Xtratuf boots are selling well. They're insulated and waterproof so they keep your feet dry," he said.

"We're also selling a lot of ice melt and windshield washer fluid," he added.

But, like Trustworthy, not all of AIH's sales are up.

"When it snowed at the beginning of winter, we were making better sales on snow shovels and scoops, but they are moving slower now."

Gilbertson said sales of insulated coveralls, bibs and work clothes have slowed but are still steady.

"People that are going up north like slope workers are still getting them," he said.

As November ends and December begins, some peninsula residents usually have high-speed fun on their winter chariots on their minds. But with poor snow accumulations even in the high country this season, snowmachine sales are suffering a bit.

"This kind of weather always hurts," said Brian Alexander, owner of A-1 Enterprises Inc. in Soldotna.

However, Alexander said he's not about to throw in the towel on this winter or his sales just yet.

"It's too early to worry about it. We could still get decent snow and be left with five months of sledding time," he said.

In the meantime, he's focusing on the sales he is making.

"We're still selling a lot of tire chains and plows, and four-wheelers are still selling. People are also buying helmets and gloves to get ready for when snow does come," he said.

Winter is the time when snow removal services make their bread and butter, but the icy weather is hindering them, as well.

"Everyone is sick of the ice," said Jack Shaw of Peninsula Plowing.

"It's affecting the business. It's mostly affecting my drivers that plow for extra income. We were doing about twice this many plows last year at this time," he said.

Shaw said residential accounts are currently the slowest, while commercial accounts are still steady.

"Businesses want to keep it clean, but even they've been tough to sand with this weather."

"You sand and then get rain and it doesn't take it long to wash it all away and then you're left tender footed on glaze again," he said.

However, Shaw, like several of the other business owners, is still holding hope for a change in weather.

"I'm optimistic. I've been watching the weather trends and I think it will cool off here soon. And I'm hopeful we'll get more snow," he said.

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