Weather and Customers

Josie Leavitt - February 24, 2010

On the eve of a major winter storm, my thoughts turn toward shopping patterns in bad weather. Our store is in Vermont, so we’ve got snow, often lots of it, for long periods of time. Do folks hole up when the weather’s bad? Not so much. The beauty of our store is folks can snow shoe, cross country ski or pull their kids on sleds right up to the front door. Vermonters are an anticipatory bunch. Rumors of bad weather tend to send families in for books to read during snow days.  There’s nothing like a stack of books to calm kids during a long snow day. Let’s face it, not every kid wants to go outside and play in a snowstorm.
Not every family or person plans ahead. These folks brave the weather when the need for reading takes over. They do come to the store in a myriad of ways. There is a perverse pride in braving even the worst storm. These folks arrive triumphant and spend a lot of money as if saying, “Thanks for being open.” Younger children who can’t stay outside that long tend to get pulled in sleds to the store. There’s nothing quite as cute as an entire snow-suited family that comes clomping in, shaking snow off their boots. I can always tell how long a family has stayed in the store by how large the pile of winter clothing is in the picture book section.
Customers generally don’t mind the snow, it’s the rain they hate. Too many rainy days in a row, especially in the summer, makes customers crabby even while they’re buying the book that they hope will be their salvation.  Rain tends to make customers stay away. It’s as if they’re just angry and don’t want to be bothered. Cold weather seemingly has no effect on shopping patterns.
One thing I’ve noticed is most Vermonters just like to come to the store to complain about the weather, whatever it is. Too many sunny days in a row during the summer,   people start to worry about drought and we recommend books about the dust bowl. If the summer is too rainy, well then there are mosquitoes and I’ll recommend a book about exploring the Amazon. If there isn’t enough snow, people stand around the register wondering about global warming and we’ll hand them the latest Bill McKibben book. A late spring storm has gardeners agonizing about when they think they’ll be able to put their garden in, so we soothe them with The Secret Garden.
One very strange thing I’ve noticed is the first beautiful day after a spate of ugly weather tends to put people in a bad mood. It’s almost as if they’re angry because they’ve realized how nice the weather could be. For them I recommend David Sedaris or Calvin and Hobbes, because life is short and you need to laugh.

1 thought on “Weather and Customers

  1. Sandy

    Spot on! I love the fact that Vermonters are stubborn enough to go out in a raging snow storm–it’s like they (we) are saying to the weather, “You can’t keep me inside!” We held a sale on a winter Saturday and got hit with the biggest snowstorm of the season, must’ve been 2 feet of snow fell that morning, and we got one of the biggest turnouts of customers we’d ever had.


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