Sunday, December 17, 2017

Businesses selling shovels, soup and salt turn icy weather into cold cash

NEW YORK — The harsh winter has been rough on some businesses, but for a lucky few, the frigid weather has meant 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 a long 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.

Much of the country has been in a deep freeze. Only 32 winters have been colder in the past 119 years, according to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.

With more Americans stuck indoors, customers are ordering 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, rose 30 percent in January and February, compared with the year before. Orders for soup, 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. Salt sales are up, too. Total sales are up 20 percent so far this year, compared with a year ago.

The bad weather hasn't been as kind to other companies. Businesses that rely on having customers come to them have been hit hard. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Macy's Inc. said their sales have been hurt because of store closures.

When people do venture out into the cold, they stock up on products that protect against frigid temperatures. Carmex, which makes lip balm, said sales are up 9 percent over the past eight to 10 weeks from the same period a year ago. And L.L. Bean can't make its rubber and leather boots fast enough. The company has hired 40 new workers.

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