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Winter Storms Freeze Spending Habits in Atlanta

Local businesses using Square Reader saw 70 percent decrease during late January storm.

Use of Square at Atlanta businesses, Jan. 28-29. Credit: Square
Use of Square at Atlanta businesses, Jan. 28-29. Credit: Square

When you’re cooped up inside because of the kind of winter weather we’ve had this week in Georgia, it can also leave nearby businesses out in the cold.

Dependent on fact-to-face transactions, local mom-and-pops can miss out on sales when roads are shut down and the power is out. Those without websites that enable online shopping are hurt even more.

Square, which makes a portable credit-card scanner that plugs into a mobile device, says winter weather has had a negative impact on Atlanta’s spending habits.

Square spokesperson Lindsay Wiese said her company has seen a downward trend in spending during big storms.

Wiese said during the so-called “polar vortex” storm in late January, Square transactions were 70 percent lower than the previous week. (see attached chart).

“The biggest gap in volume took place on January 29 at 2 p.m., with payment volume decreasing 83 percent,” Wiese said. That’s when roads were icy and wind chills in the single digits.

Around 100,000 businesses in metro Atlanta — mostly entrepreneurs and businesses with fewer than 10 employees — use the mobile-spend device.

“These small businesses have to participate in commerce to make a living, so [winter storm are] tough on them,” Wiese said.

The Square stats might be anecdotal evidence, but it’s clear that severe weather also impacts the economy through damage costs and business interruption.

Mainstreet.com reported that direct economic losses were about $3 billion with four big winter storms in the U.S. in January. Impact Forecasting meteorologist Steve Bowen told Mainstreet, "The current winter season in the United States has already become the costliest year for the winter weather peril since 2011."

Reuters has reported retail sales fell 0.4 percent in January, with the winter weather a big reason for the decline.

Scott February 13, 2014 at 04:11 PM
Yep. Can tell you from experience. You basically lose a weeks worth of business. At least next Valentines, we wont have much to beat...
Karen Harris February 15, 2014 at 04:29 PM
Makes me nervous that so much revolves around what we spend....

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