Dry winter leaves dealers in cold

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PORTLAND (AP) – Snowmobiles, snowblowers and other merchandise that usually flies out of dealers’ doors is gathering dust in storage after a winter that disappointed snow lovers in much of Maine.

With the unsold stock on hand, some businesses are working out deals with banks or manufacturers to extend financing so they can sell their power equipment next fall. Others are slashing prices to move the leftover products in a hurry.

Portland received 47 inches of snow this winter, compared to the 102 inches it had received by this time last year and the annual average of 65 inches, the National Weather Service said. The lack of snow dampened sales of power equipment, but also had an impact on businesses from convenience stores to motels.

Some businesses, especially in northern Maine, are applying for low-interest recovery loans offered by the Finance Authority of Maine.

The showroom at Don’s Turf Depot in Portland is lined with shiny lawn mowers, chippers and chain saws, ready for spring shoppers. But in the back, a huge storage container is filled with surplus snowblowers.

“All the snow-related products are down,” said Tim Morancy, general manager at Don’s, which sold only about 300 snowblowers, compared with more than 700 a few years ago. “This store is sitting on $100,000 in back storage.”

In Gorham, Wescott & Sons has dozens of leftover snowmobiles, stacked on pallets in the back and still wrapped in plastic. The business lost $500,000 because of the unusually mild winter and lack of snow, said Jeff Wescott, whose father and grandfather started the business 37 years ago.

The business is big enough to absorb the hit, Wescott said, but it still hurts. “This is the worst that I can remember. We want to put it behind us,” he said.

Morancy and Wescott are both trying to capitalize on the reverse of the snowless winter: the early spring.

“Brush cutters, chain saws, a huge amount of air blowers, power brushes – those are going way earlier this year,” Wescott said. “Some years at this time there’s still two feet of snow on the ground, and a foot and a half of frost.”

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