Heat wave forces Wichita businesses to adapt

08/02/2012 12:00 AM

08/05/2014 8:19 PM

Twenty-nine days of temperatures at or above the century mark this summer have slowed business for some Wichita companies, in some instances changing the way they operate.

The 100-plus-degree temperatures have been especially felt at some local golf courses and outdoor entertainment venues, where managers say afternoon business has been affected the most.

“Our afternoons are like a ghost town,” said Tom Smith, general manager of All Star Adventures at 1010 N. Webb Road, an entertainment venue in east Wichita that operates an amusement park. “Let’s face it. It’s 110 degrees outside at 3 o’clock and we have a lot of concrete and metal rides.”

“It’s hurt us,” Smith said.

Rick Nuckolls, general manager of Willowbend Golf Club in northeast Wichita, said the club’s business is down “slightly” and most of its customers are trying to squeeze in a nine- or 18-hole game as early as 7:30 a.m.

“We don’t have many players after 10 (a.m.),” Nuckolls said. “All of our members and golfers are going real early. Our business has changed to the point like (we’re) in Arizona.”

But not all businesses that have an outdoor element to their operations are feeling ill effects from the unusually hot weather.

Chris Tarbell, vice president of Davis-Moore Auto Group, which runs six new-car dealerships, said the company’s retail sales are up from this time last year.

“I would say it affects the overall floor traffic,” Tarbell said. “(The hot weather) kind of changes when they come. There’s less people out in the middle of the day. We seem to get busier later in the day, or in the morning.”

The hot weather hasn’t changed how Davis-Moore or Willowbend operates, their leaders said. Davis-Moore does stay open longer during the summers, Tarbell said, largely because of the warmer temperatures.

Ivan Drury, a senior analyst with automotive information firm Edmunds.com, said freezing temperatures and lots of snow are probably the only kind of weather that directly dampens auto sales.

“For this month, July, it was one of the best July sales months since 2007,” Drury said of industry car sales. “For the warm weather, I think it really does shift when you buy your vehicle. It doesn’t really shift your purchase too badly.”

Smith of All Star Adventures said his business has changed its staffing because of the weather. Fewer people work during the heat of the day, both for their health and because of fewer customers. It’s something All Star began doing during last summer’s record-breaking heat wave, when the area saw more than 50 days of 100-degree temperatures.

“I think the biggest thing we learned is adjusting our scheduling,” Smith said.

So how much of a difference does a 95-degree day make versus a 105-degree day for these businesses?

“Last week we had a day that was 95, 96 degrees and we were busy all day,” Smith said. “Ten degrees is a huge deal.”

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