Although the snow forecast for this year has certainly been down, the holiday sales forecast has not had a marked difference.
70 percent of retailers spoken to in Boyne City reported that sales were up or at the same point from last year, with just two reporting that sales were down.
“We had a very solid year, we had a strong year, the holiday season was very good—it would appear the milder weather got people out and shopping versus the harsher weather which seemed to keep sales down last year,” said Ed Brehm, Sommelier and Owner of Boyne Country Provisions and Wine Market & Emporium.
Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann said local businesses are telling him the holiday season was somewhat flat this year.
“They mention competition from big box stores and online shopping as the major challenge. However, Chris Bandy from Local Flavor Bookstore commented, ‘I can’t tell you how many people told me they were making an effort to buy local for the holidays,’” said Baumann. “That’s something the chamber tries to emphasize, that every dollar spent at a local, independently owned business stays in the community and generates a far greater economic value by creating jobs and more localized spending.”
Temperatures for this winter have been mild so far, with the average temperature in the month of November being 45.1, while December dipped down to 34.5.
“The warmer weather has made things a little rough for us because of the rain (early in the season) but it’s cooling down; but by the time things are over we should be at the same sales as last year and go out with a bang,” said Boyne Mountain General Manager Ed Grice. “We’ve made significant investments to deal with years with low snow amounts so there is no shortage of snow on the slopes.”
Baumann also touched on the effect of weather, saying sales for the full year of 2014 were “OK, but not great.”
“The weather really hurt us—it was a record cold winter and summer, and fall was rainy and cold, too,” he said. “We did a survey in November on how the year was going up until that point, and 62 percent said business improved somewhat over the previous year, 14 percent said it improved dramatically, 19 percent said it stayed the same and 5 percent said it deceased somewhat.”
Other retailers felt that the weather helped sales, making it easier for customers to get from store to store.
“I think that we’ve had good weather for shopping to keep customers in, but I feel that traffic was not as good because people could drive farther with clear roads,” said Up and Down the Lazy River & Country Now and Then owner Karen Guzniczak. “We had people buying and we had good sales; people could walk from store to store and they weren’t driving from store to store as much.”
Baumann said a major economic issue on Michigan’s horizon this spring will be whether voters approve the state sales tax increase that will mainly go toward road funding.
“That’s a tough issue for the business community, because a sales tax increase is not something we want to see, but we do need to fix our roads,” he said. “Another ongoing problem for businesses is recruiting employees—this was the number one challenge mentioned by 34 percent of business people in our survey.”
For stores dependent upon the sales of winter weather supplies and snow removal tools, sales have been down.
“We haven’t had as much snow or cold weather so that hurt a little bit of our sales,” said Jennifer McAndrew, Manager of Boyne City True Value Hardware. “People aren’t buying salt or shovels and other winter supplies.”
Some area restaurants are reporting sales are nearly the same as last year, with no marked improvements.
“We’ve had an average year, with no snow it’s been a hindrance,” said Café Sante Manager Sarah Niederpruem. “We still are having the normal amount of people come up, but not as many as in years past.”
Baumann said with the overall economy and employment numbers improved, 2015 should be a better year.
“But, we have too many business vacancies in our downtown,” he said. “We just had our chamber planning session for the year ahead, and one of our priorities will be to try to fill those vacancies.”
Baumann added, “Looking ahead, 2016 could be a banner year with the Dilworth Hotel and 7 Monks Taproom scheduled to open.”