Warm temps slow sales of heating oil

November 27, 1990|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Evening Sun Staff

It's been a while since the Hechinger's hardware and lumber store at Northwood Shopping Center sold grass seed in November.

But, over the weekend, a customer came in asking for it and Glen Stone, the store manager, scrounged around and found a 25-pound bag in storage. "He just wouldn't get out of here without it," Stone said.

With temperatures expected to flirt with records today and tomorrow, businesses all over the city are adjusting to spring in November. Heating oil sales, usually gushing this time of year, have slowed to a dribble and prices may drop as a result. Hechinger's stock of heaters and humidifiers is barely dented. And, at the Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors in Highlandtown, sales of ice cream are way up over last year.

The National Weather Service says it may not last long. The lows are expected to be in the 30s by Friday, when a high pressure zone now settled off the Atlantic Coast moves on. But while it is there, it has encouraged unusually warm weather from the Southwest.

Warm as it seemed over the past few days, the temperatures were really not remarkable, said Fred Davis of the Weather Service. Saturday's high of 57 degrees was only five degrees above normal high. Sunday's 68-degree high was 16 degrees higher than normal.

With a couple of cold periods earlier this month, the average so far is only a degree above normal. "The key will be the next couple of days," Davis said.

Baltimore Gas & Electric reports that gas usage is down about 3 percent for the month through Nov. 20. Electricity usage, less responsive to winter weather, is down about 0.5 percent, said spokesman John Metzger.

Charles Mueller, general manager of Cook's Tank Line, said sales of heating oil are way down from last year's level. People rushed to fill their tanks when the prices were rising in August, September and October and have not used much.

"It could be to everyone's benefit. If the temperatures stay warm all our prices may come back down," Mueller said, unless war fears continue to drive up international oil prices. His company was selling heating oil for $1.20 a gallon yesterday, down from a high of $1.25 earlier this season.

Igor Svec, a salesman at Carroll Independent Fuel Co., said business has been way off but he doubted prices would come down as a result.

Mohammad Pater-Rov, part-owner of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream store at 3512 Eastern Ave., said a usually reliable slow period is surprisingly busy this year.

"In our 14 years at this location, our sales are always based on the temperature outside," Pater-Rov said.

Stone, of Hechinger's, said 'tis the season for heaters, humidifiers and weather stripping. But not grass seed. He has snow shovels on display, but has not moved them up to the high-traffic areas of the sales floor yet because demand is off.

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