Downtown businesses benefit from cold weather despite less foot traffic

During the month of December, Fredericton had very mild weather. Now in January, the cold weather has finally set in and fewer Frederictonians want to brave the cold and walk the streets of downtown.

Jared Jardine went to the Clay Cafe last week out of the blue. His friend said they needed something to do besides watch Netflix. However, Jardine said he doesn’t wander around downtown too much in the winter.

Foot traffic in downtown Fredericton has slowed down since the cold weather has set in.
Foot traffic in downtown Fredericton has slowed down since the cold weather has set in.

He said he has noticed that it has gotten quieter downtown since the cold weather has set in.

“I mean it’s busy during the daytime… because of the businesses and stuff but once nighttime comes around it’s pretty dead down here,” said Jardine. “It’s too cold.”

Jardine isn’t alone. Katie Oblenes also has noticed a drop in the foot traffic. She goes to the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. She spends a lot of time in that part of the city, however tends to stay inside her school.

“Yeah definitely, especially compared to the summer,” said Oblenes. “The summer it’s really bustling, and right now it’s not.”

At Unplugged: A Board Games Cafe, friends gather for an activity to do inside in the warmth. Jordan McAdam, Kerri Buckingham and Brittany Gallant were there this weekend. They said it is a good place to be during the winter because it still gets them out of the house but not out in the frigid temperatures.

McAdam said she doesn’t spend a lot of time downtown regardless of the weather.

“Less in the winter though, because it’s so cold,” said McAdam.

Gallant says that she would sooner go inside and play board-games than be outside this time of year, which she says is a good thing for a place like Unplugged. McAdam agrees and says it’s nice to not be walking around.

“Instead of just walking around downtown looking at the sites, you huddle places,” said McAdam.

It is reasons like this that one of the cafe’s owners, Travis Grant says Unplugged has been succeeding this winter. He says the first two weeks have been very strong for the business.

“A lot of the people coming back from the Christmas vacation and they’re looking for something to do,  and we happen to fit that bill,” said Grant.

Unplugged owner, Travis Grant, sets up a board game for a picture on the store's Facebook page.
Unplugged owner, Travis Grant, sets up a board game for a picture on the store’s Facebook page.

He said the cold weather affects them  in a positive way because people are out looking for something to do and a place to gather with friends. So much so that they’ve seen an increase of people coming in since the fall. Grant saw a dip when the students came back as they were paying for their books and getting situated for the semester.

The foot traffic diminishing outside has benefited Unplugged because they have noticed people who have set out to come in. They are now able to thrive beyond  walk-in customers.

“People are specifically coming here. They’re not just wandering around downtown wondering ‘Where do I go?’ They’re coming for Unplugged,” said Grant.

Down the street, another business is gaining momentum as the winter

A small selection of skates sold at McTavish's Source for Sports, which is mainly a hockey specialty shop. As a hockey store, they thrive in winter.
A small selection of skates sold at McTavish’s Source for Sports, which is mainly a hockey specialty shop. As a hockey store, they thrive in winter.

months come. McTavish’s Source for Sports is mainly a hockey specialty store so they look forward to the colder weather.

One of the managers of McTavish’s, Rob Weale, says they do depend on a little bit of walk-in traffic. However, due to their specialties, says most people know they’re coming to get certain valuable items like pads and skates.

When it comes to weather though, unless it’s storming the sports shop is most likely to be impacted positively.

“I wouldn’t say it would affect us negatively, if anything it might actually help us a little bit,” said Weale. “You have your hockey customers and recreational skaters and stuff like that. So you sell a lot of skates for that type of person after Christmas. So you need it to be at least a little cold for sure.”

The city’s tourism has a way of encouraging Frederictonians to get out and explore downtown in the winter as a way to compensate for the diminished foot traffic each year. Frostival runs from Jan. 21 to Feb 14 this year.

 

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