The Winter of Discontent

Let’s face it: this winter has been one for the books, a tragedy, a horror story. Across the country, we have had to contend with record cold, brutal conditions, massive amounts of snow, sleet and freezing rain, all of which have made for an awful business climate. The only Polar I ever want to talk about is Polar Beverages, in Massachusetts, not polar vortex. Sadly, that weather is nevertheless the bane of the beverage business.

Now add to the mix a drought out West that is now reaching disaster proportions, along with the dangerous roads, higher fuel costs and weekend storms and any chance to grow your business has either dried up or washed out. It’s no wonder that almost every conversation with my marketer, retailer, distributor/wholesaler and investor friends begins and ends with the negative impacts on their businesses. I listen and try to sympathize with the issues that have seen all of the gains and positive momentum achieved in 2013 blown away.

The past three months have been hard across the board. Retailer traffic is down, discretionary income is being diverted to other purchases, such as home heating costs. Marketers are slowing down their initiatives, other than price discounting, which doesn’t serve you well. It’s hard to generate excitement for the financial community to invest in brands right now. They look to the stagnant numbers this quarter and hesitate to pull the trigger on putting money into deserving brands. Investments are not dead, only delayed, which is no consolation to companies sorely in need of funds to advance and survive.

There appears to be a reticence to expand inventory, take on new brands and hold the line on pricing. It’s understandable under the circumstances, but going into a shell (well, one that isn’t layered with fleece and long underwear, anyway) must be avoided. As bad as this winter has been, it is only one quarter. You must look at the big picture. We have seen these cycles before, and this season has always been a lesser one compared to the seasons that really make or break your business year.

Take your lumps, recalibrate and be aggressive for the rest of this year. Hopefully, you’ll recoup some of the lost quarter, and have a great year. After all, spring is just around the corner.