White stuff equals green stuff

Area business increases as snow adds up

Posted: Monday, December 29, 2003

After last year's mild winter and sparse snowfall, outdoor enthusiasts are reveling in this year's heavy accumulations of the white stuff, but they're not the only ones.

Right along with them are area businesses that are booming with sales of winter gear.

"Sales are 10 times what they were last year," said Bob Walker, sales manager at River and Sea Marine Supply in Soldotna. "Everything we've got has been selling good -- snowmachines, belts, parts, accessories -- everything."

Walker said the snowmachine business is a risky one, since it's almost entirely dependent on snowfall. He said last year's poor winter conditions hurt.

"Business has been really good this year, but we still haven't gotten back what we lost last year. It generally takes three to four good years to offset one bad year," Walker said.

He said in an average year, his shop will sell more than 200 snowmachines, but last year, to the best of his recollection, it barely sold 40 to 45 machines.

"So far this year we've moved roughly 65 to 70 percent of our inventory," he said. "We even delivered seven snowmachines on Christmas, and that was only a half-day's work."

Walker said things likely will continue to improve for the rest of the cold weather season.

"The best snowmachining really starts after Jan. 1, so I really expect to see good sales for the next four to six weeks. After that, people may wait until next year to make their investment."

The snowmachine businesses aren't the only stores in town seeing an increase in winter sales this year. Beemun's in Soldotna has seen ski sales skyrocket.

"It's way better this year," ski manager Robert Johnson said. "It's incredible how much better sales are this year."

Alaskans just don't know what to do with winters like last year's, but they're sure making up for it this year, he said.

"We sold a lot of waxless skis before Christmas. In a big snow year like this, more kids go out for the ski team, so we've been selling a lot of ski packages to junior high-aged kids, or to their parents that are already thinking ahead," he said.

Skis aren't the only items moving off the shelves at Beemun's.

"This year's snowboard sales have been really good, too," John-son said. "Snowboard sales weren't great last year by any means, but we sold a few to people willing to travel."

Johnson said Beemun's also has done well on sales of goggles, gloves, jackets and other winter wear.

At Cad-Re Pet Supply in Soldot-na, owner Dianna Taplin said business has been doggone good.

"The sales of our skijor equipment this year are completely blown out of the water compared to last year, and it's all snow related," she said.

"We completely sold out of skijoring belts once already, and harnesses, dog booties and other pad protection are all selling well. People are definitely getting outdoors with their dogs this year," Taplin said.

Brian Miller, store manager at Trustworthy Hardware in Soldotna, said business also has been busy there.

"It's been a good year in all areas of the store," he said. "Last year we got hung up on a few items like sleds, but this year is obviously better than the last two years."

Miller said sleds are selling well, as are snow shovels and a few other snow-removal-related items. Ice fishing gear also is being purchased at a steady rate.

"Rods, tackle, augers, ice tents -- it's all going well," he said.

The only items moving a little slow right now, according to Miller, were ice cleats and ice melt.

"With the fresh snow, people just aren't buying them," he said.

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