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March 4, 2014

Cold weather heats up sales for some

NEW YORK — The harsh winter has been rough for some businesses, but for a lucky few, the frigid weather means more cold, hard cash.

Ace Hardware is having its best winter in more than a decade for snow blower and shovel sales. Waterproof boots are on a long backorder at clothing maker L.L. Bean. And more people are staying home and ordering gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and booze from Delivery.com.

“The concept of a polar vortex doesn’t feel good, but it’s good for business,” said Kane Calamari, a vice president at Ace Hardware Corp.

Much of the country has been in a deep freeze. Only 32 winters have been colder in the last 119 years, according to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.

With more Americans stuck indoors, customers are ordering up more meals and arranging to have their laundry picked through Delivery.com’s website and smartphone app. Sales at the company, which operates in major metro areas such as New York, Chicago and Washington D.C., rose 30 percent in January and February compared with the year before. Orders for soups, wine and vodka have spiked.

People are “trying to stay warm,” said Neeraj Sharma, the site’s vice president of marketing. “They’re hibernating.”

But sooner or later, they have to dig out. Sales of shovels and snow blowers have doubled at Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware. The company is also shipping salt and other ice melters to southern regions such as Atlanta, which rarely have to deal with severe weather. Total sales are up 20 percent so far this year compared with a year ago.

The bad weather hasn’t been so kind to other companies. Businesses that rely on customers to come to them have been hit hard. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Macy’s Inc. said their sales were hurt because of store closures. At one time during January, about 30 percent of Macy’s total stores were closed. Whole Foods Market Inc. said shoppers are making fewer trips to its grocery stores.

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