Already well on its way to becoming the worst holiday shopping season in recent memory, 2008 looked even more dire as 15 inches of snow fell on Portland on the weekend before Christmas. On the very weekend when retailers expect their highest sales of the entire year, many had closed their doors as shoppers and employees had difficulty getting around.
Fortunately, some local establishments were able to weather the storm, both literally and figuratively.
While the normally commuter-heavy Starbucks directly across the street sat virtually empty, Northwest Portland's Coffeehouse NW on Burnside and Trinity Place only experienced a five percent decline in sales. "Because many people were not going into work, much of our business shifted to the late morning and afternoon. We're a neighborhood shop, and our regular patrons came later and stayed longer," says owner Adam McGovern whose shop was profiled in Saturday's New York Times.
For clothing retailers, declines were more robust but shoppers were more confident in their purchases. According to sales associates at Broadway clothier John Helmer, traffic declined, but there were far fewer window shoppers. "Those who braved the weather didn't come to look. They came to buy," said one associate who asked not to be named. "We tend to sell a lot of hats and scarves when the weather is bad."
Premier Portland Chocolate shop Cacao fared less well in the poor weather, but blamed the weather forecasters as much as the poor weather itself. "For one week shoppers were warned of a storm that didn't arrive," said owner Aubrey Lindley. "The streets were clear of snow and ice, the temperatures were above freezing, and shoppers stayed home because of the weather forcasts. It was unfortunate."
Luckily for Cacao, the days following Christmas were very busy.