'Tis been the season for cozy socks, blankets and cocoa; nestling by the fire and hibernating in our warm houses as the extreme weather has raged across Northern Utah. Record-breaking low temperatures and the climatic anomaly that was the "freezing rain" has kept most of us inside, content to wait out the worst of the storms that dominate this time of year.
But some must inevitably brave the harsh conditions: Employees and store owners across the state continue to open shop regardless of the snow falling or the fact that roads and sidewalks have been turned into skating rinks.
And in lieu of Mother Nature's hissy fits, these retail stores and shops are feeling the strain on business as customers opt to stay in. We got in touch with a few Salt Lake City stores to learn to what degree the weather has prevented sales in the past month.
Melissa, a store associate who works at Purse Dreams, told us that during the past week sales have dropped. "We usually have quite a few people coming in during the day," she says. "It seems like during storms like these, everyone wants to stay inside, so we have had very few people in this week."
The same could be said for Weller Book Works, a locally-owned book store in Trolley Square. Employees say the customer stream has been lessened to a trickle lately, and during the worst of the storms, it's been completely dead. In the lull between cloudbursts, business is average, but still not quite booming.
Another shop affected by January's weather is Solissa's Boutique. Located in Sugar House, right next to the post office, Solissa's is used to a lot of "foot traffic," says Claire, a store associate. She admits that business has slowed down, but that the weather might not be the only thing to blame. "This is the month right after Christmas," she points out. "People don't want to spend as much money after spending a lot during the holidays." She does concede, however, that the weather adds to the drop in customers and makes for a slower and less productive month.
So what are these stores doing about it?
Emphasis is being placed on the electronic outlets: store websites and social media.
Both Purse Dreams and Solissa's have been reaching out to customers on Facebook in addition to their websites, and Weller's posts daily about promotions and upcoming events that are focused on drawing people in.
One of Weller's events will be famed author Brandon Sanderson signing the last installment of the Wheel of Time series on Feb. 1. The goal is to catch customers in the comfort of their homes as they choose to stay inside, browsing the Web. That way, as the sun comes out, they know what they want and can go and get it on their own terms.
Stores are also using discounts to drive traffic during this post-Christmas season. Purse Dreams boasts current bargains, hoping to snare customers with deals that can't be passed up.
The same goes for Solissa's Boutique. Claire, a business student at the University of Utah, has plans to print out fliers for her fellow students to give them incentive to visit the store, and has some promotion ideas in mind, such as 10 percent off with a student ID. She is also letting previous customers know that their loyalty is valued, writing thank-you notes and including a $5 off coupon.
Innovation is key for prompting snow-shy people to venture out of their comfort zone, and these stores are determined to not let Mother Nature cramp their style. And of course, like most of us, these stores are preparing to thaw out with the highly anticipated spring season. The season will bring new book titles to Weller's, and Purse Dreams is planning an all-new spring line that features never-before seen styles. Solissa's will have new inventory from New York, so customers can flaunt the latest fashions.
Utah citizens may have to endure the chill for a month or two more, but it is ultimately the promise of spring that will rejuvenate us and propel us back to our favorite stores.
Hopefully, businesses will emerge from the cold coma intact, ready to tackle the shopping seasons ahead and ready to put one of the harshest winters in recent history behind them.