Warm December, snow-free winter cutting into retail sales
Bob Benjamin knew last month that this would be a disappointing winter season for his fur business, as customers arrived in convertibles with the tops down.
Benjamin, president of Flemington Furs, is among the many New Jersey retailers that have been sideswiped by record warmth to close out 2015, and practically zero snowfall throughout the state so far.
From heavy coats to snowblowers, the demand for winter essentials just hasn't been felt, at least not yet.
"The weather is the No. 1 salesperson for the fur business," Benjamin said. "When we have normal weather patterns, we do very well. This year was not normal."
Benjamin said business at his New Jersey and New York locations was essentially cut in half this November and December, compared to the same time last year.
Flemington Furs is in the middle of a major sale, attempting to liquidate its inventory, which is way more than what's wanted on hand in the middle of January.
It's been a slow season at Towne Hardware in Oakhurst as well. Their winter items, such as ice melt and shovels, have no reason to be flying out the door.
"We still have a lot of winter inventory," owner Gary Stavac said. "And you have to be very careful now; you don't want to overextend your inventory."
A couple of winter storms, Stavac said, can turn things around for the business.
It's not all bad news, though, at least for the consumer.
John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, said a lull in seasonal sales can mean significant price markdowns in the months to come as retailers unload their winter stock.
"The consumer can ultimately benefit," Holub said. "Retailers will already start looking ahead to spring."
Retailers yearn for a "happy medium" when it comes to weather, Holub said. The milder temperatures and precipitation-free conditions are not ideal, but they also don't want major storms that keep people indoors and away from malls and shopping centers.