Winter cold led to sales slowdown

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles about the effects this winter’s extreme weather had on the local area.

ELKINS – The onslaught of winter weather has eased this week, but some local businesses are still feeling the chill of slumping sales.

Jim Summerfield, manager of Morgan Auto Parts NAPA in Elkins, said the business has been affected by the winter conditions.

“With the bad weather, our sales are down,” Summerfield said. “Weather was a direct impact on that, but things are picking up now that the weather is getting a little better.”

Summerfield said the store normally has a large demand for certain items which were impossible to get this year.

“Folks were asking for diesel fuel conditioner and dry gas,” Summerfield said. “There was a shortage of these items this winter and these items are not available for us to stock.”

Employees also had a hard time getting to work because of the road conditions, he said.

“We do lots of deliveries on a daily basis,” Summerfield said. “This year some of our deliveries were delayed because of the weather.”

Elkins Shop N Save manager Edward Clevenger said store employees stocked the shelves with extra toilet tissue, milk and bread when there was an impending storm.

“Folks would come in and we were busy if there was a storm scare,” Clevenger said. “We have also noticed a difference in the amount of shoppers at the beginning of the month. Shoppers would wait until later to get their groceries after the storm subsided.

“I have about eight employees that walk to work,” Clevenger said. “I had a rule – I told them if the weather was too cold or too bad, they were to call me. I drove to their homes to bring them to work during the sub-zero weather.”

Clevenger said employees that lived further away were told not to try to drive into work if the weather was too bad. He also commended those caring for the parking lot at Elkins Shop N Save.

“They did a good job keeping up with the parking lot and the hill,” Clevenger said. “There was just one day when it was snowing too fast for them to keep up.”

Several Upshur County stores also reported a sales slowdown.

“The weather actually has had a major impact on us this year,” Buckhannon Sears owner Charlena Eubank said, noting the snowy weather has hindered sales with fewer people stopping by to shop.

Eubank said the store did sell more snow throwers than usual this winter, and that business has increased in the past few weeks.

The story for Goody’s in Buckhannon is similar.

“We’ve definitely had slower traffic; it’s definitely hurt our sales,” Manager Jennifer Fletcher said. “We still have our customers that come out, and they’ve been really good to us, but it (winter) has definitely put a damper on things.”

In Barbour County, the Philippi Garden Market also experienced a winter dropoff.

“It has slowed sales,” Manager Reg Trefethen said. “So whenever there is a snowstorm, or when the temperatures are extremely cold, people just don’t come out. Where we would expect to sell 100 doughnuts a day, we would maybe sell 25. So it was a significant difference.”

Trefethen said some of the store’s produce comes from gardeners whose productivity was affected by winter weather.

“But when the sun comes out, boy, what a difference,” Trefethen said. “I think we all must be solar powered. We’ve been blessed with some very good days (lately).”

Government agencies and school systems were all affected by the winter chill,

The Randolph and Tucker County school systems both took a hit this year, losing instructional days and energy. Randolph County Schools had five delayed days in addition to 19 days when school was canceled.

“We have had an exceptional winter,” Terry George, superintendent of schools, said. “We will be able to recover 11 instructional days.”

George said the winter had a serious effect on the school system’s resources.

“We exhausted all of our supply of salt,” George said. “We have scrambled around but have been unable to find any more, even from our regular distributor.”

George said Old Man Winter took a bite out of the school system’s energy conservation measures, as well.

“We have a policy of what temperature to keep our schools’ heating systems; however, with the extreme cold temperatures, we had to raise those temperatures,” George said. “If we did not move those temperatures up, the schools would not be able to recover quickly enough for the students to return to the schools.”

Weather also affected the operation of local municipalities in Barbour County. At a Philippi City Council meeting on Tuesday, one public official explained how the harsh winter conditions have cost the city dollars it didn’t expect to spend.

“The winter has been more severe than some that we have had in prior years, and because of that, our departments have been working a lot of hours dealing with the snow and the freezing temperatures, which causes other problems in the city, not just (with) snow removal,” City Manager Karen Weaver said.

“Sometimes we just think about snow removal, but it affects all the crews as a whole,” Weaver said.

Weaver said the city budgeted $54,000 for snow removal, but already has spent $83,000.

“The cost of salt is high and we’ve used a lot of salt this year,” Weaver said. “When the winter is harsh, it affects our budget in the worst way.”