Cold weather freezes business traffic

Shoppers and students steer clear of stores in the winter

Chris Brogden, store manager for Don’s Photo, believes the cold weather and recession combined have decreased shopping traffic Mark Reimer

In Kamal Mehra’s 37 years of business, the owner of the East India Company restaurant on York Avenue has rarely seen a cold snap like the one we’ve recently experienced.

The weather hasn’t been this consistently cold since the ‘80s, Mehra said, and now he feels the cool temperatures are freezing out customers.

“People don’t like to come out in this kind of weather,” Mehra said.

The recent bone-chilling temperatures took a toll on many downtown businesses. Chris Brogden, store manager for Don’s Photo at 410 Portage Avenue, reports a lot less walk-in traffic.

“The risk of frostbite is definitely a deterrent to stroll downtown,” he said.

Brogden said the cold weather and recession combined are behind the decreasing traffic, but could not estimate to what extent.

“January is typically slow in the retail sector in general,” Brogden said.

Mehra also blames the Christmas hangover for the lack of business. He expects an improvement in February.

University of Winnipeg economics professor Melanie O’Gorman said the economy and the cold weather are definitely linked.

“The economy fluctuates with the season,” she said. “It’s also psychological: people shop when they’re happy.”

The economy fluctuates with the season.

Melanie O’Gorman, University of Winnipeg economics professor

But it’s not all bad news. Businesses that depend on the cold weather, like stores selling winter tires, thrive in the frigid cold, O’Gorman said.

University of Winnipeg psychology professor Michael McIntyre said that while he is unaware of any behavioural research done in regards to cold weather, some seasonal factors affect moods.

“People who stay indoors are not as physically active, and therefore not as likely to produce endorphins,” McIntyre said.

Endorphins are substances found in the brain that are linked to mood, emotion and pain.

Fourth-year English major Liz Currie said she stays indoors more because of the cold weather.

“I don’t go out much to begin with,” Currie said. “I find it hard to study at home, because it’s cold there too.”

Currie said she does reluctantly make it out to attend her classes, but if she had an early morning class, she would think twice about attending.

“Winter is more depressing,” she said. “It’s harder to get up in the morning and I’m less enthusiastic than the first term. I just want to get it over with.”

But not all students are finding the weather counterproductive. While second-year student Murray Gordon is staying inside more because of the cold temperatures, he is using that time wisely.

“I’m getting more reading done,” Gordon said.

Published in Volume 63, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 22, 2009)

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