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Winter Weather Nightmare for Pet Retailers

Michelle Maskaly//February 5, 2014//

Winter Weather Nightmare for Pet Retailers

Michelle Maskaly //February 5, 2014//

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There are a lot of difficult decisions a small business owner has to make when running their business.

This winter, one of those decisions has been a lot tougher for pet retailers in especially colder climates – to close, or not to close.

“It is one of the hardest decision I have to make in the winter,” Heidi Neal, owner of Loyal Biscuit Co. in Maine, said. “We don’t want people out driving in it and we tend to look at what the other retail stores near us are doing. Employee safety is number one, but you also want to be there for your customers if they are out of dog food, but you are also hoping they are not out and about, because it is dangerous out there.”

Neal’s comments about deciding whether or not to close her three locations, came Wednesday after Mother Nature dumped inches of snow and ice across the Northeast. While driving to one of her locations she decided it was too treacherous and made the call to shut the stores. She announced it on her company’s Facebook page.

“Good Morning LBC Fans! We have made the decision to close for the day due to the snow. I started towards Belfast for the day and it is piling up fast and expected to last all day, I don’t want my staff, or my customers, out in this. Please stay warm and safe and we will see you all tomorrow!”

Afterward, she explained to Pet Age, “I always try to look at the current status,  and the radar. All of New England is covered. Even if they could have gotten there, they wouldn’t have been able to get home.  There was just no way.”

In the four years of owning the store, this has been the worst winter, she said.

“We live on the coast and are secluded in our harbor,” she explained. “We tend to run warmer than other places in the state when they get snow we rain or slush. And it is very functionable. This year is different. There is a lot  more snow than we had in the last four years and they have been big storms. It hasn’t been a couple inches here or there. It’s been 10 inches per storm. For us, that is a lot.”

During the previous three years, she has only had to close her stores once per season, and closed early a few times because of snow. This year, however, is a different story.

“We closed completely two times already, opened late once, which we have never done and closed early three or four times at this point and it’s only the beginning of February, and we have two months to go,” she said.

How does this impact her stores’  bottom line?

“So far it hasn’t been as bad as anticipated,” Neal said. “Everyone knows the storm is possibly coming, and they come in the day before and stock up. The day after we are closed tend to be a better day than average. It impacts sales for sure. But, overall we see a bumb the day before and the day after.”

And, if they had opened, it may not have been worth risking everyone’s safety.

“If we had been open it would have been so slow,” she said. “We wouldn’t have done enough sales to make it worth it in terms of money. But, it’s still hard, because we want to be open and there for our customers.”