Warm weather helps York City stores

Julia Scheib
Hilary Arthur, right, owner of downtown boutique Arthur & Daughters, discusses merchandise with salesperson Stefanie Skippy.

For the most part, temperatures in December have been oddly warm, and it looks like we'll have a warm Christmas — AccuWeather predicts a bit of rain and a high of 72 degrees on Christmas Eve and a sunny 59 degrees on Christmas Day.

Unseasonably warm weather this holiday season has hit chain stores hard. Retailers are slashing their prices on winter clothing; analysts say people are doing more of their shopping online.

Planalytics, a weather forecasting firm for retailers, estimates that so far this season mall-based clothing stores have lost $343 million in sales compared with last year — the largest weather-related retail loss since 1998, when a devastating ice storm hit parts of the Northeast in early January, leaving 500,000 without power.

Maybe people are reluctant to head to the mall this year, but the warm weather has been kind to downtown businesses.

Being outside: Cherie Mansberger, owner of Cherie Anne Designs, 48 W. Philadelphia St., said the unseasonably warm temperatures haven't affected her business.

"If anything it's been kind of cool because people have been out in our courtyard," she said.

Chris Clarke, owner of Sunrise Soap Co., 29 N. Beaver St., said the season has been everything she hoped it would be. The store has been so busy in the days since Small Business Saturday, she said, that lines get very long.

But when people reach the counter, they're smiling. "They love to see the success of a small business doing well," she said.

She attributes her successful season to a supportive community and loyal customers but acknowledged that the warm weather has helped bring more people by the store.

"You know what? I was ready to pull my bubble machine out (on the sidewalk) again," she said.

Winterwear: Shoppers only buy what they wear, and since temperatures have mostly been high, people aren't buying many winter items yet.

Hilary Arthur, owner of Arthur & Daughters, a boutique at 49 N. Beaver St., said the weather is not affecting her store in overall sales. "But certain categories are maybe not as strong as expected," she said.

"I think that people are definitely holding back a bit on coats, scarves and hats," said Arthur.

But she isn't worried because sales have otherwise been "fantastic."

And the lag in sales of winter items might even work out to her benefit.

"I'm designing a new coat," she said. Arthur predicted that by the time the item is perfected and put on the market in January, winter will have officially started.

Cherie Mansberger, owner of Cherie Anne Designs, sits in her shop Sunday morning.

Mansberger sells a variety of handmade goods, including winter accessories.

Considering the trouble the big retailers have had selling winter clothing, she said, "we've been selling hats and mittens and stuff in spite of (the weather). But these are all one-of-a-kind things — except for the tea — not like things that are mass-produced."

Her customers realize that if they don't snap up a hand-knit hat they like when they see it, someone else might, she said. She also made the point that many are buying her handmade winter items as gifts.

Men: The weather has affected sales "in a positive way," said Caroline Morris, owner of Kimman's Co., 57 N. Beaver St.

"December is up over last year, and I think men are buying sooner than they have in past years," she said.

"Couples will come in together," she said. "And then later the man will come in and say, 'She wants this.,'"

For Kimman's, rain and snow bring dips in sales that aren't recovered later, she said.

But cold days do bring some perks for the store.

"We have sold over 1,000 pairs of socks (this season)," Morris said. "And every time it gets cold, we sell more."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.