We know plenty of people are ready for spring. Businesses are too; local business owners tell us that harsh winters can decrease sales. To see to what extent this is true, we looked at the amount of sales tax revenue we collected from D.C. businesses each winter from 1986 to 2013 and compared it to winter snow totals. To control for other factors that affect sales over time, like D.C.’s increasing population and the 2008 recession, we used the portion of annual revenue coming from sales in the winter as our revenue measure in the graph below.
A number of factors affect sales, but the data seems to show that snow plays a role, especially for winters with high snow totals. All four winters with more than 30 inches of snow between 1986 and 2013 had sales below what we’d expect, and the winter of 2010 (a.k.a. Snowmageddon) was hit the hardest.
What exactly is this data? The sales tax data is from our office, the D.C. Office of Revenue Analysis. The snow data is from the National Climate Data Center. When we refer to “winter” we mean the months of December, January, and February.