Businesses adapt to weather during rainy summer
By Sue Tiffin
Published Sept. 5, 2017
Businesses in the Haliburton area adapted to a rainy summer that some store and restaurant owners said affected their summer sales.
“Pretty much the best way to sum up the summer was, it sucked,” said Craig McDonald of Wilberforce Foodland.
The grocery store business was impacted by a few contributing factors, according to McDonald, including the number of rainy days that might have deterred tourists from the area, and the closure of the Scotiabank, the sole bank in town, earlier in the year.
“A lot of it had to do with the weather, and another contributing factor for us was having no bank in town,” he said. “[People] are pretty much heading to Bancroft or Haliburton to do everything now. This part started before the summer even hit, so it snowballed through the summer.”
McDonald said living and working in the town without a bank was a way of life he thought residents would have to get used to and work around.
“It’s not just me, it’s the whole town that’s struggled this year, I think,” he said. “It’s one of those things, you have to adapt to it.”
Barrie Martin, an experience broker with Yours Outdoors, said he was looking forward to a busy fall and winter season.
“My summer was OK, but not as good as I had hoped for,” he said. “Rain, cool temperatures, and large and abundant insects were factors contributing to a less than stellar season.”
“Weather forecasts and access to hourly weather information are bad for tourism,” he added. “It is my sense that indoor businesses did better than the outdoor businesses.”
Laurie Bonfield of Country Pickin’s on Highland Street said she had an extremely busy summer, and that the store saw more traffic on farmers’ market days and rainy days, as always.
“August has been busier than July, but the rain definitely didn’t hinder our business at all,” she said.
Notably, shoppers coming in did have different purchasing habits than in some summers past.
“We didn’t sell a ton of swimwear this summer because it was so cold,” said Bonfield. “But we sold more jeans and weekend-wear. In fact, we’ve been asked for socks for the past two weeks, so we got the socks out. You just go with it.”
Autumn Wilson, manager of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce, said she had heard mixed accounts from businesses.
“There was definitely a slow start to the summer across the board, but then some businesses saw it pick up and others didn’t,” she said.
Wilson said the weather definitely had a big impact across the county.
“There was so much rain forecasted that people found cottagers didn’t bother coming up to the cottage at all,” she said. “Normally, rain can be good for business because it causes people to go out and shop instead of being on their docks or on the lakes, but when there was rain in the forecast for the whole weekend, they didn’t come up at all.”
The forecasts calling for significant rain when only brief showers occurred began to irk Linda Middleton of Crystal Image Studio, who said the visuals often depicted rain and storms even if the forecast itself only called for a slight chance of rain.
“Many of my clients are in the tourism business in one way or another and hearing their concerns with weather predictions for a weekend full of rain that turned out 90 per cent sunshine and no clients sparked me to look a little closer at any possibilities why people were not booking or if they were not booking ahead,” she said. “Many of my clients complained no one is planning ahead, everything is last minute.”
After noticing the negative weather forecasts, Middleton redesigned a weather forecast graphic to more accurately portray anticipated weather, which was shared on social media.
“I prefer the glass is half-full scenario,” she said.
According to numbers received from the Ontario Highlands’ Tourism Organization, and anecdotal feedback from stakeholders gathered by Amanda Virtanen, county tourism director, tourism in the area wasn’t greatly affected by rain this summer.
“The weekends actually turned out fairly decent for the most part, so I think people just ignored the forecasts and carried on with their plans,” she said. “I’m hearing from tourism-related businesses that they were either on par with last year (about 25 per cent of them) or above last year (about 75 per cent of them).”
According to Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist who works for the Meteorological Service of Canada as part of Environment and Climate Change Canada, an observation site has been in place in Haliburton since 1883. May was the second rainiest May on record with 190.6 mm of rainfall. The record is 294.1 mm in May 1912. Haliburton’s monitoring station saw 168.6 mm of rain in June this year, compared to 86.4 mm in June 2016.
It was the rainiest June since 2014, when 241.4 mm fell. In July, 95.6 mm of rain fell this year, compared to 73.2 mm of precipitation in July 2016. According to Coulson, there were 14 days in July with measurable rainfall (the long-term average is 11 days) and there have been 13 days so far in August with measurable rainfall (the long-term average is 10 days).