Summer Shows Small Business Sales Surge

Steve Endsley, general manager of Tri-State Computers, a Dover, N.H.-based solution provider, said his sales in June and July were up 40 percent, the best summer sales spike he said he'd seen in five years.

"The economy is in shambles and people are working and shopping more at home," Endsley said. "Gas prices are forcing more online shopping. Consumers would rather let UPS pay for the gas. June and July are usually our worst two months of the year. Service and sales tend to go down in the summer. We're usually dead this time of year. I kept waiting for the drop-off and it never happened."

Tri-State, which builds its own systems, usually sells about 5 to 12 systems a month in the summer. This summer, the company sold 20 to 30 systems a month, Endsley said.

Solution providers at the D&H show also said the thunderstorms that have walloped the Northeast this year have led to a huge increase in power backup systems and services for consumers and businesses whose systems have been knocked out by lightning.

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"The lightning storms have been unbelievable for business," Endsley said. "No one wants to pay $160 to $180 for power backup until they get hit by an outage. We're selling lots of APC."

Mark Wineburg, owner of Yes Computers, an Apple solution provider in Northampton, Mass., said he also benefitted from an unusually strong summer market. He said his business was up 40 percent this summer compared to last year. "We thought we'd see a lot lower spending this summer. But more people are staying at home. It's been one of our busiest summers ever!"

Wineburg said the spike in gas prices has businesses and consumers viewing the cost of a new computer in comparison as a relatively modest expense.

Rob Chapman, co-owner of Computer Escape, a Randolph, Mass.-based solution provider, said his business was up 30 percent in the June and July time frame. "The lightning and thunderstorms have people coming in all the time with power supply issues and system board upgrades," he said. "A lot of the boards fried by thunderstorms are older boards that aren't manufactured anymore so people will buy a new computer."

A tax-free holiday shopping weekend in Vermont led to a $750,000, two-day windfall for Small Dog Electronics, an Apple solution provider in Waitsfield, Vt., said Art Hendrickson, a purchasing agent for Small Dog Electronics.

Overall, Hendrickson said Small Dog's business was up about 15 percent this summer. He said a good deal of that is attributable to Apple's momentum in the marketplace and growing popularity with both consumers and businesses.

Ken Kaplan, the owner of Kaplan Computers, a solution provider in Manchester, Conn., said his sales were up about 20 percent this summer mostly because consumers chose to repair systems rather than buy new ones. "The economy is bad for people," he said. "People don't have as much money to drop on a new computer. They'd rather spend a couple hundred dollars repairing an old machine than buying a new one. June and July were record months for billable hours for us."

Kaplan, for his part, thinks his business success is based far more on how his team serves customers than on the economy. "It's not so much what's going on in the marketplace," he said. "It's what is our level of commitment? I think this could be a very good year. And next year could be even better. But it's based on how hard we work. That has always been the case for most small businesses."

Bruce Stevens, an account executive for Northern Data Systems, a Falmouth, Maine-based software provider for government, medical, utility and credit unions, said the company's business is based on long sales cycles and business has been up the last several years. The verdict? "Business is good."