Did Local Home Goods Stores Cash In on the Long Winter?
By the halfway point of April, with 26 inches of cumulative snowfall for the month, state climatologist Luigi Romolo noted it was already the snowiest April on record for the Twin Cities and had cracked the top 20 all-time snowiest months.
This was not good for local hardware stores and garden centers, which were stockpiling mulch and getting ready for pallets of annuals. Target had the patio furniture out—not so much shovels.
“It’s funny, right now we have ice melt and snow shovels directly next to lawn fertilizers,” said Mike Frattallone of Frattallone’s Ace Hardware in mid-April.
Likewise, Joe Young, manager of the Linden Hills Settergren’s Ace Hardware, says that to keep bags of salt, shovels and ice chippers in inventory late in the season he orders small amounts daily. “It’s a lot more work to keep things in stock and not overstock. [But] that’s the name of the game,” Young says. “We just want people to know they can always count on us having it.”
The late severe winter weather did boost business for both stores. Frattallone’s nearly tripled snow-blower servicing revenue over last winter, and Young expected to see a “rare year where we literally sell everything.”
However, both weren’t exactly dancing on the ice.
“Frankly, it stinks,” says Frattallone. “There’s nothing aspirational about shoveling sidewalks, but there is something about buying a new grill, planting new plants and beautiful flowers.” As of mid-April, both were wary of impacts of delayed spring- and summer-based purchases, though expectations varied.
Frattallone said he expects business to be compressed into a few crazy late-spring weeks. Young anticipated “a pull-your-hair-out late sprint.”
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But Young also foresaw a possible 20 or 25 percent loss in sales because people would skip spring purchases—not buying mulch for planting grass because by the time the weather allowed it, they’d be using weekends for cabin trips instead of yard work.
“We’ve got 50 pallets of mulch that should be selling right now, but it’s just sitting out in the parking lot looking lonely and abandoned,” Young noted in mid-April. “The sooner spring comes, the better it’ll be.”