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Deep Freeze Doesn’t Deter Rochester Shoppers

By: Mary Chao, Democrat and Chronicle

A little, or a lot of cold never deterred a hardy bargain hunter, so says Margie LaTourette, owner of Mostly Clay, an artisan gift shop off the Erie Canal in the village of Pittsford.

“Cold and snow will not keep our diehards from the seconds sale,” she said.

Some area retailers are reporting that despite the subzero temperatures this winter season, shoppers are braving the deep freeze to get a bit of a respite from Old Man Winter. Call it retail therapy, they say.

Sales so far this year are even with last January and February, LaTourette said, adding that her annual sale on clay goods in February was very popular.

The deep freeze didn’t keep diners away at Tokyo Restaurant in Henrietta. February sales are about even with last year, said owner Julie Sun. Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday helped as the restaurant was booked the entire weekend, she added.

“People in Rochester are used to the cold,” Sun said. “They have to go out some time.”

Retailers in cold regions such as Rochester are not as affected by freezing temperatures, said Evan Gold, senior vice president of client services at Planalytics, a Philadelphia-based firm that tracks how weather impacts retail sales. But some areas are not prepared for the cold, such as Nashville, where schools closed due to the ice and snow, he said.

“It’s all local,” Gold said, explaining that shopping in the cold is all a matter of perspective.

In the western New York region that includes Rochester and Buffalo, sale of firewood climbed 20 percent so far this week and bird seed sales were up 5 percent, probably due to mercy feeding, Gold said. Sales of cold beverages fell 6 percent this week and sun care products fell 5 percent, he added.

Certain retail segments will do well in the cold such as home improvement centers. But outdoor shopping malls will suffer, Gold said.

At Eastview Mall, January sales were very good, up around 5 to 6 percent, said Mike Kauffman, general manager. Weather and temperatures were better than they were a year ago January, he noted.

February sales are about even with last year, Kauffman added.

The National Retail Federation is projecting that retail sales excluding automobiles and restaurants will increase 4.1 percent nationally in 2015. That’s up from a 3.5 percent growth seen in 2014.

“The economy appears to finally have gained some real traction and after a somewhat turbulent 2014. We expect to see continued gains in economic activity in the year ahead,” Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at National Retail Federation, said in a statement.

January retail sales released by the National Retail Federation showed that sales were up 3.7 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

Sales are soaring so far this year at Marina Auto Group in Webster, said vice president Tony Gabriele. The dealership that sells Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, Dodge and Mitsubishi brands recorded sales increases of 35 percent in January and 25 percent in February, he said. Top sellers so far this year are all wheel drive SUVs and trucks, Gabriele said.

There were days when the showroom was slow due to the cold, but the dealership made up the sales when there was a thaw, he said.

While weather may be driving consumers to buy large all wheel drive vehicles, there is another factor at play. Lower gas prices are helping the sales of large SUV and full-sized trucks, Gabriele said.

The cold weather could impact profitability down the road for some retailers. Spring apparel has already arrived at full price, but people are buying winter essentials at discounted prices, Gold noted.

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