Sunday, Oct 23, 2016
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Heavy snow puts consumers in mood to buy winter equipment

Snowmobiles; downhill and cross-country skis; all-terrain vehicles with snow plows on the fronts; sleds; and even ice-fishing shanties.

A lot of merchandise associated with winter sports is being snapped up at area retailers as people take advantage of the record 25.8 inches of snow that fell in Toledo last month, the snowiest December on record in 50 years.

“It's just been the best winter in many, many winters,” said Jim Wenberg, owner of the Mountain Man Ski Shop on North Reynolds Road. “You can do all the advertising in the world, but if it's sunny or rainy and 50 degrees out, you're just not going to do anything in terms of business.

“But when you see some snowflakes, everybody's just in a different mood.”

The combination of heavy snow and the Christmas shopping season has meant busy times for area retailers which specialize in equipment and clothing for outdoor winter sports. Mr. Wenberg has twice this winter sold out of cross-country skiing equipment. He has a limited supply now.

“Even the suppliers are out, and our season is really just starting,” he said. Buying usually lasts until mid-March.

Sleds also have been a hot item. Barb Mock, a store manager at The Andersons in Maumee, said her store has been out of sleds for a week, after selling 200 to 300 sleds priced at about $7. More have been ordered, she said.

Pam Miller, manager of Gander Mountain in Springfield Township, said the store's two large pallets of winter boots, priced $40 to $80, were quickly snapped up, as was the store's collection of ice-fishing shanties.

“We finally have ice fishing after several years when we couldn't, so we're selling everything from shanties to the augers to drill a hole in the ice to ice fishing rods to heaters,” she said. Two shipments of the shanties have sold, priced $270 to $500, with some left from a third delivery.

“The winter so far has been absolutely phenomenal,” she said.

Greg Golab, store manager for the Cabela's store in Dundee, Mich., said “Ice fishing has really taken off,” with items related to ice fishing selling well, including portable propane heaters priced $20 to $200.

“Another big item this winter has been snowshoes,” he said. “They've really gotten a lot techier over the last few years, and a lot of people are doing it as a sport or for hunting in deep snow,” he said. Snowshoes at Cabela's are priced $50 to $200.

The early, heavy snow contributed to people wanting to go out and have fun, spurring sales of recreational equipment, said Mike Foley, spokesman for Recreational Equipment, Inc., in Seattle, which has 60 stores nationwide and is a major online retailer of outdoor sporting goods.

Its November sales increased by 35 percent from a year earlier, and online sales jumped 250 percent, he said.

Running low on merchandise is Mike Johnson, sales manager for All-Seasons Recreation, Inc., in Wauseon. Besdies snowmobiles, he said, popular items this winter have been vehicles known as four-wheelers and all-terrain that can have snowplows attached to the front.

All-terrain vehicles priced $3,000 to $6,000 also are selling well at Ray's Honda-Yamaha-Suzuki-Kawasaki, Inc., in Monroe Township, Michigan, said salesman James Deaton.

“A lot of people do put snow plows on the front but they also use them to pull ice shanties with them,” he said.

Snowmobiles have been popular, too. “We haven't had this kind of winter in seven or eight years, and it pushed [buyers] into buying a machine,” said Mr. Deaton.

He said he's “almost completely sold out” of the five types of snowmobile brands that he carries, which cost $3,600 to $8,000 each. He said he has about seven left, plus a dozen floor display models, compared with 30 to 50 vehicles he usually has stocked.

Pete Brent, sales manager at Honda East Yamaha Suzuki Kawasaki in Maumee, said he has sold out of Polaris brand snowmobiles and nearly sold out of the Yamaha brand. His are priced $3,500 to nearly $8,000.

“We're about 30 to 45 days ahead of schedule on sales,” he said.

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