As the historic snowstorm threatened the Northeast Monday, Mike Frattallone of Frattallone Hardware stores was hoping for a call from Bloomington-based Toro.
"I’d love it they asked me if I wanted to get rid of a couple hundred snowblowers," he said.
The law of supply and demand at work, snowblower manufacturers such as Toro and Ariens sometimes call up their dealers in areas of low or no snow to transfer to areas hit by heavy snowfall. Frattallone got the call a few years ago, although last year dealers around the country were shipping units to Minnesota instead of the other way around.
Toro said the transfers from retailers don’t happen every year, according to snow marketing manager Christine Cheng. This year the company has enough inventory of their own. "We’re moving more than 1,000 units to the East Coast so they can replenish," she said.
Frattallone didn’t get the call this year, but he said it happens with Toro with some regularity.
Some Ariens dealers in Wisconsin got the call last year. Regional sales manager Mark Swift said the Brillion, Wis.-based company pulled 200 snowblowers from Wisconsin retailers and shipped them to Canada.
But thrower manufacturing is changing. After last winter Ariens started manufacturing snow throwers year round to better keep up with demand, Smith said. "It’s not full-time but we build up in the summer so we have plenty of inventory for the preseason," he said.
"A good snow year is followed by strong preseason sales the following year," he said.
Toro doesn’t have a typical stop date to quit manufacturing throwers, Cheng said. "We don’t have production right now, but that could change based on customer needs," she said. It was very good preseason for snowblower sales in fall 2014, partly due to consumers remembering the snowy winter of 2013-14 and early snowfall nationwide. But sales tapered off in December and January with little new snow.
That’s likely to bring an overstock situation in the Twin Cities unless weather patterns change soon. And that will bring markdowns, although Frattallone said snowblower profit margins are very tiny. "Even $20 off is worth considering," he said.