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DOVER, N.H. -- New Hampshire convenience store operators said they are banking on sunshine this summer to help get a reprieve from slumping winter sales. Many locally owned stores report that their businesses are somewhat buffered by a variety of factors, including a stable tourism industry, Foster's Daily Democrat reported.
For them, the real key this summer will be weather forecasts, which determine if families looking for a budget getaway will stop in to stock up on drinks, charcoal and sunscreen.
Michele Collins, who owns Isinglass County Store in Rochester, N.H., told the newspaper her store's proximity to Baxter Lake buoys much of its summer business, with 30 to 35 percent of its annual sales coming from vacationers.
However, tourism dollars are only as certain as the weather report, which Collins uses as a barometer for future sales when she's determining what to buy and how much.
During a pleasant weekend, Collins told the newspaper, the store will be packed with people stocking up on deli salads, steak tips and beer. But when the weather forecast calls for rain, Collins said she simply expects the regular video rentals and dog food sales. "If you have a family that owns a lake house, if it's a rainy week up here, they don't come," she noted.
New Hampshire Grocers Association President John Dumais said in a recent New Hampshire Business Review story that 60 percent of the state’s convenience store market is generated [through] out-of-state visitors.
"As people visit the state to enjoy the seasons, the mountains or the lakes, they're going to get hungry or thirsty. They're going to need gas. This is encouraging our smaller stores to survive, but we're all experiencing a similar situation," he said.
Mark Flover, who opened Friendly Market and Deli in Rollinsford, N.H., last summer, said he already is starting to see his numbers climb as the days grow longer and customers emerge from their homes. "Most people are resistant during the winter," he told the Democrat. "They don't want to get out of the car and don't want to travel when it's dark. When there's nicer weather, there is a longer day for business."
This winter, when he said people were "much tighter with their dollars as far as discretionary spending goes," Flover decided to run a $2.99 special on large subs. The promotion didn't necessarily generate much profit on its face, but it helped him to develop a clientele and advertise the store's other products, the retailer explained.
"I probably made 50 cents off it [the sandwich], but if that's where they came to spend their little bit of discretionary money, then that was a good thing," he said.
Mike Tugel, owner of City Hall Market in Dover, told the newspaper it's "common sense" that weather plays a key role in business. He said it's difficult to know how much of his summer business is linked to tourism, but a steady set of regular customers have helped in slower times. Many of those customers are construction workers or painters working around downtown, and as the economy declines, he said he expects less of that business.
"If they aren't working, they aren't buying. I’ve had regular customers say they haven't worked in months. The unemployment rate is by far the most important for business."