Brutal winter weather can sometimes be a good thing for business

Myles Udland

Terrible weather can actually be a good thing for the economy.

On Wednesday, the Fed released its latest Beige Book, a report comprised of anecdotal observations on the economy from each of the Fed's 12 districts. 

Boston has seen record snowfall this winter, and conventional economic wisdom says that activity slows down when winter is in full force as flights and shipments are delayed, consumers hole up in their homes, and many people can't get to work.

But in Boston, some retailers have actually seen a boost from the weather. 

From the Beige Book:

First District retail respondents report that their comparable-store sales have ranged from flat to up 18 percent on a year-over-year basis; however, the most frequently cited increases were between 3.5 percent and 5.5 percent. Footwear, outerwear, activewear, and winter sporting goods are selling particularly well. The firm reporting the 18 percent increase attributes about three-quarters of the added volume to strong demand for winter-related items like rock salt and snow shovels, as the Boston area and other parts of New England experienced record snowfalls between mid-January and mid-February.

But even with these positive reports, the winter is still weighing on some business in the region. 

Other contacts say that early 2015 sales continued the positive trajectory in place by the end of 2014, but business dropped off noticeably in late January, when the first of four (to date) significant winter storms hit. One retailer reports that over the last month, about 200 of their stores based in New England had been closed for a few days because of the severe weather.

Read the full Beige Book here »

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