Some stores win, some lose in storms
Back-to-back snowstorms on the East Coast have brought a blizzard of sales of shovels, groceries, and booze. For airlines and department stores, the wintry weather has resulted in millions of dollars of lost revenue.
As businesses tallied up the impact of the second major snowstorm in less than a week, forecasters warned of a third wave of snow that could hit the Northeast on Monday.
Yesterday, people planning to travel or shop were stopped in their tracks. From Washington to New York City, roads, airports, and businesses were closed.
Airlines have canceled thousands of flights in the past week. And retailers that are concentrated in the East, such as BJ’s Wholesale and Dick’s Sporting Goods, are likely to take a noticeable hit to first-quarter revenue, analysts say.
Not all businesses cursed the bad weather, however. Ski resorts, liquor shops, and hardware stores counted themselves lucky as out-of-school kids hit the slopes, and the grown-ups bought shovels - and booze - as the snow piled up.
Up to 16 inches fell in parts of western Maryland and Reagan National Airport in Washington had more than 9 inches by midday, making it the snowiest winter on record in D.C. That was on top of totals up to 3 feet in some places from the weekend storm.
Airlines have canceled thousands of flights in the past week. Continental had scrubbed at least 900 flights yesterday, while United and Southwest canceled 600 apiece and American 300 by early afternoon.
The major airlines said it was too early to put a dollar figure on the storms’ impact, but one analyst said February’s foul weather would cost them millions.
Yet despite the large numbers of flights that have been disrupted, the timing of the storm was fortunate. Airlines typically reduce the number of available flights anyway in February, a shoulder month between winter and spring holidays.
Robert Herbst, an aviation consultant, said many customers will ask for travel credits instead of refunds, which should also work in the airlines’ favor.
For shopping malls and department stores, the loss of revenue may be permanent.
Dan Hess, CEO of research firm Merchant Forecast, said a snowstorm of this magnitude can knock down sales by 10 to 25 percent for the week. When it happens in the slow months of January and February, “You don’t make that business back up,’’ Hess said.