The dark, chilly days of winter call for a lot of coffee. Or at least you'd think so. Turns out January is one of the worst months for coffee sales.

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The dark, chilly days of winter call for a lot of coffee. Or at least you’d think so.

Turns out January is one of the worst months for coffee sales.

It’s a new year’s resolution issue, says Ali Ghambari, co-owner of a chain of Seattle cafes called Cherry Street Coffee House.

“People spent extra money during the holidays, so they feel guilty and are trying to save money,” he said. “If they had two lattes or Americanos a day, they cut back to one.”

They cut back even more on pastries, causing him to trim muffins and other sugary inventory by about 20 percent. He sometimes adjusts staffing, too.

The lull also gives Cherry Street workers time to “getting things all sexied up” — things like deep cleaning and maintenance.

Even the big players feel it.

Grocery stores sold less coffee in January than any other cold-weather month last year, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm.

Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Minneapolis-based Caribou Coffee all tend to book their weakest sales during the first three months of the year.

Starbucks’ sales totaled $2.5 billion last January, February and March — which it calls its second quarter.

It was its worst quarter for sales, as usual, and 12 percent below its best quarter in July, August and September. Summer for Starbucks is boosted by sales of its popular coffee-flavored slushies called Frappuccinos.

For almost everyone else, the strong season is fall.

That’s when people are in a spending, imbibing, non-new-year’s-resolution frame of mind.

“It’s back to school, back to routines, and the weather is nice, so people are not hibernating and gearing up for the holidays,” said Dani Cone, who owns the Seattle café chain Fuel Coffee.

She sees the midwinter coffee slump as a byproduct of being in the service industry. “January is always really slow in any service industry,” she says.

Cone uses the down time for touch-ups, fix-ups and, last year, to have the floor redone at one of the cafes.

Mostly she does not have down time, even in January. For years, Cone has baked pies on the side, selling them at Fuel and other cafes — and beginning a few weeks ago, at her new Capitol Hill shop called High 5 Pie. It even carries pie lollipops.

With two businesses going full tilt, Cone is not among the resolution-makers swearing off caffeine.

“Sleep? I don’t do that anymore. There’s not time. Thank God I have a coffee shop, right?”

— Melissa Allison


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Disney Store plans to open new locations at Westfield Southcenter and Bellevue Square as part of an international expansion this year. The chain said it’s on target to add more than 25 new and remodeled stores in 2011, giving it 350-plus locations worldwide. — AM

Kent-based outdoor gear and apparel retailer REI advanced to ninth on Fortune’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. REI, which ranked 14th last year, received praise for a four-week paid sabbatical it gives employees after 15 years on the job. Other Northwest retailers on the list were Nordstrom, at 74, and Starbucks, at 98. — AM

Glassybaby, a Seattle maker of handblown glass cups, holds its twice-a-year sale on Saturday in Madrona, at 3406 E. Union St. — AM

Retail Report appears Fridays. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or