January Cold Knocks Down Sales Numbers

By Forrest Saunders, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Recent sub-zero temperatures have frozen retail sales.

The US Commerce Department said in a report Thursday retail sales fell 0.4 percent nationally in January. That was the second straight month of decline after sales dropped 0.1 percent in December.

The reason? Shoppers like Careena Lee, who spent last month indoors away from the below normal temperatures and numerous snow storms.

"I'm at home, bundled up, watching TV," said Lee. "I've been here my whole life, but I absolutely hate cold weather. I hate it."

According to the report, business at clothing stores, furniture stores and restaurants all took a hit.

Locally at New Bo Books, January was the worst month the shop has had since opening about a year and a half ago.

"The weather in January was extreme and we saw it in our sales," said the shop's owner, Mary Ann Peters. "There were a few days where it was 20 below, or it was really snowing hard. There just wasn't anyone in the street."

Sales and foot traffic were down at NewBo City Market, too. However, owner of The Market Gourmet, Lorrie Beaman, was looking for the silver lining of slow business.

"This time of year allows me to spend more time with my customers, the ones that have trudged in here regardless of the temperature. You know, I think I'm building a stronger customer base," said Beaman.

Unfortunately more winter is coming. To make sure it doesn't freeze February sales, officials at NewBo City Market said they'll rely on unique events to bolster their numbers.

"We're having a snowman building contest. We're having a chili cook off," said Kristie Wetjen, the NewBo City Market executive director. "I think it's really-- for businesses, on you to try to figure out ways to entice people to forget about the cold and still come out."
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