Some businesses flounder, others find sales flourish

Businesses suffering Friday expected they’d recover losses quickly.
Sunday, December 3, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:29 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

Columbia’s biggest snowstorm in years kept holiday shoppers away from some retailers and restaurants throughout Columbia on Friday, but some that chose to stay open downtown had an above average day of sales.

The storm caught Wal-Mart, 401 N. Stadium Blvd., unprepared, said store manager Tim Birk. Snow shovels, driveway salt and sleds sold out Thursday afternoon and continued to fly off the shelves when a new shipment arrived Saturday, he said.

“Believe it or not, the sleds were pretty high on everybody’s priority list,” Birk said. “I guess it’s been awhile since the kids have been able to get out and do that.”

Birk said Friday’s sales were substantially diminished because customers didn’t want to drive on snowy roads, but business picked up on Saturday.

He said the storm hurt the store’s sales for the weekend during a time of year when holiday shoppers usually boost sales. But, he said, holiday sales would probably balance out over the long run.

Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Don Laird agreed that local retailers are likely to make up any lost sales quickly.

“I’m sure if there are certain things shoppers need to get, they’re going to get them,” Laird said.

Essentials, such as milk and bread, were big sellers for supermarkets and convenience stores Thursday.

“Sometimes grocery stores and convenience stores have a run because there are certain things people need and they won’t be able to get out for a while,” Laird said.

Shoppers swarmed Schnuck’s, 1400 Forum Blvd., before the storm to stock up on food supplies. The store’s sales were 30 percent below average Friday, store manager Bill Chrisco said, but shoppers made up for the loss Saturday.

Though many downtown businesses shut down Friday, some that stayed open saw an influx of business.

Alpine Shop, 1102 E. Broadway, opened on time Friday morning and made 70 or 80 sales, about twice its usual amount, store manager Jeremiah Wade said. Wade said his best selling items were gloves and stocking caps.

Fieldhouse, 1109 E. Broadway, opened early Friday afternoon to seat customers because attached restaurant Willie’s was filled, server Jessica Phillips said Friday night. She said Willie’s was so busy that employees had to turn down some unusually large orders for take-out and eventually stop accepting take-out orders.

“People are ordering things like 38 burgers,” Phillips said. “That’s just nuts. We could never do that.”

Missourian reporter Joel Erickson contributed to this report.

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