Bountiful blizzards have meant big business
It's kind of hard to gauge in July just how many snowblowers a business might sell in December.
Sales of snowblowers, shovels, sidewalk salt and all the other snow-removal items are way up so far this year at Pellicci Ace Hardware. But when manager Stuart Emich had to place the orders for this winter during last summer's trade show, he had no idea how many more he would have to order this year compared to last.
For the past few years, Pellicci's has sold an average of six to 10 snowblowers in a season, Emich said. This year's heavy and frequent snowfalls, though, have driven demand way up. So far this winter, Pellicci's has sold more than 40 snowblowers, as well as about a dozen Power Shovels and upwards of 50 roof rakes.
"It's been huge what we've been selling this year," Emich said. "It would normally take us eight years to sell that much, basically."
Business is booming
There have been several heavy snowfalls already this year, and it's not even January. Like the big box stores, the local hardware stores have contracts for snow removal items with several companies. One of those companies, Toro, has a warehouse in Lakeville, so it's been easy to get the extra snowblowers - at least, it had been. These days, Emich is told even the warehouse is out of product until more can be made.
But there's really no magic formula when it comes to ordering items like snowblowers. Typically, Emich bases his orders on sales from the previous year. It's a process that's worked since the store opened in the mid-1990s. This year is the exception, on both ends of the spectrum. Not only is there more snow than anticipated, but Emich figures it's not likely we'll get that much again next year.
"This year is totally different than anything we've experienced before," he said.
Pellici's carries driveway marker poles that people are buying two and three times already, as their first and second sets are being buried with each snowfall.
There's been an increase in sales of shovels and tools to clean ice and snow from gutters, vents and chimneys. The store was expecting another load of ice melt tabs and roof rakes on Tuesday.
"I got a pallet of each," Emich said. "Of course, depending on the weather, how long a pallet is going to last, I really don't know."
In some cases, neither Pellicci's nor anyone else is able to get some of the products simply because the warehouses are out. That's the case with some of the Toro snowblowers, but Ace also carries a brand called MTD, and four new snowblowers just arrived last week.
"(The warehouse) called us last week just before that last big snow and asked 'do you want to add anything to it?'" he said. "We got lucky that way."
The company is able to pull stock from out of other warehouses across the country. The local Ace goes through a warehouse in LaCrosse, Wis., but they've pulled product from other locations where the snowfall hasn't been quite so severe, Emich said.
The rush didn't necessarily come with the first snowfall. It came a day or two after, and a day or two after the next snowfall, and a day or two after the one after that. It seems, Emich said, that people eventually decide it's time for a snowblower when they get tired of shoveling by hand, or when the snow just gets too high or too heavy.
Three snowblowers in the $450 to $700 range were on display in the store Monday - the fourth shipped last week was being delivered. The larger ones are on back-order, but it's not clear if more will become available. Emich knows the snowfall might stop altogether any time now and no more would sell for the rest of the season. On the other hand, for the time being, he's still able to get stock and will continue to do so until the warehouses run out or the demand isn't there anymore.
"It's been a very good year for us. A very, very good year for us. Probably a record December because of selling all the snowblowers and stuff," he said.