Merchandising for Storms as a Seasonal Event

Discussion
Oct 12, 2006

Recent large-scale natural disasters caused by seasonal storms (extreme weather conditions, winter weathers, hurricanes, tornados, etc.) over the past several years have increased consumer awareness of the importance of preparing for weather-related emergencies. With winter at hand and the hurricane season not quite over, GMDC suggests in their latest industry report (Seasonal Best Practices: A Plan for Seasonal Merchandising) that extreme weather – storms – should be merchandised as a seasonal event. Amazon has a site related to this issue, and many supermarkets, such as Publix, have endeavored to be a source for products important for survival during and after hurricanes or any type of extreme weather.


The GMDC report proposes that retailers:


  • Work with suppliers at least six months before the storm season to identify items consumers will need for the storm season; plan shipments; and develop shipping contingencies if the storm disrupts normal logistics.

  • Build displays of storm-preparedness products and promote the availability of these products in their weekly ad and other communication vehicles.

  • Identify additional products that will be needed in case a storm with devastating wrath disrupts essential community services, such as power and water, and causes excessive damage to homes and businesses. Retailers don’t necessarily have to carry these “worst case scenario” products in all their stores, but should know how to quickly source and deliver them to needed areas immediately after the storm.

GMDC cites that retailer benefits of adopting the storm season as an “event” include:


  • Making shoppers aware of supplies they might need if/when violent weather strikes.

  • Establishing robust inventories of storm-related products to absorb the initial surge of business generated from violent weather forecasts.

  • Increasing sales based on better meeting shopper needs.

Discussion Questions: Is there potential in leveraging
the storm season as a market opportunity? Should retailers be the conduit for
disseminating consumer information about preparing for storms?


CLICK to download a copy of GMDC’s industry report, Seasonal
Best Practices: A Plan for Seasonal Merchandising

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9 Comments on "Merchandising for Storms as a Seasonal Event"


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Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 7 months ago

After reading the presentation of this topic I began to wonder if we aren’t centering a wee bit too heavily on future natural disasters and other tragedies that will undoubtedly happen in our lives. I sense there’s a growing emphasis today on how natural — and unnatural — events can jeopardize and endanger our present day lives. But haven’t disasters always happened to us excluding the newer phenomenon, terrorism?

Always being personally prepared is a necessity! But the majority of people living in potential storm centers, hurricane corridors or flood belts have learned what is needed for their temporary self-continuation when disasters strike. Thus I think retailers, more so than their customers, should be the ones to plan to have the necessary storm-related inventories available in the stores prior to when disasters happen. That’s what those who will be affected will really need.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
15 years 7 months ago

The challenge with this whole scenario of course is that natural disasters are not truly seasonal. While it is true certain things are more or less likely to occur at a certain time of the year (tell the people in Buffalo it is still early fall), weather does not always do the expected. I have to believe that there are a lot of Southeast retailers with leftover hurricane supplies this year.

So how can retailers be both prepared and flexible when dealing with these uncertainties? I think the manufacturers of these products have to recognize the dilemma and offer the retailer some financial and return policies that encourage retailers to stage the products while also offering some protection for the non-event. The manufacturer can relocate the unused product or redistribute it during the next season if it is not perishable.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

People on the Florida coast already know how to prepare for hurricanes and they often have supplies from previous years. Consumers in an area rarely hit by hurricanes are the ones who drive huge unexpected sales of hurricane-related items when the storms strike hard. In the Northeast, it’s always easy to get a snowblower before the first blizzard. It’s darn hard to find one in February. Smarter retailers use long-term weather forecasts to keep themselves in stock, at full price, during the entire storm (hurricane, blizzard, tornado, etc.) season. And it’s nice to know the supplier’s contact info, just in case, but to whom do you think they’ll ship first: the steady wholesale customer who’s been loyal for years or the retailer who calls only when there’s an emergency?

Karin Miller
Guest
Karin Miller
15 years 7 months ago

Natural disasters are going to happen, but we don’t know where or when. The commodities needed to rescue those in need are fairly predictable though. I see this as an opportunity for large-scale, national retailers to be prepared with a warehouse full of supplies that can be quickly deployed to disaster sites. If executed properly, this will create a permanent relationship with the recipients, create goodwill, and make for a great PR opportunity.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 7 months ago

I agree completely. But don’t just make it a sales and merchandising event. Make it an educational event for consumers. Tell them how they should be preparing in a booklet and brochure and make sure they know what to do when disaster strikes — which local or state government agencies they can go to for help or at least the ones they should be able to go to.

Successful retailers will make themselves facilitators in these situations. Being part of the solution in disaster recovery is not just about selling batteries and bottled water.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

Think branding, rather than just product assortment and inventory levels. Storm events represent emotional situations (home and family under attack by nature) where a store has an opportunity to lend a helping hand. Handle this the right way, and you can convert casual shoppers into grateful friends and neighbors. Handle it in the wrong way, and you will alienate your shoppers. So think of this as an opportunity to forge a tight emotional connection with your shoppers. As such, I would recommend:

–over-stocking essentials so you don’t run out (other retailers will, so this is a chance to make new friends also)

–price fairly

–provide information and all the guidance possible at helping someone to get through a storm

–send out an e-mail to customers announcing a weather alert and keep the store open extra late that evening and/or early the next morning.

Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
15 years 7 months ago

A seasonal event is chance to shine in the eyes of your customers and the community affected. Not only does the store have to operate, but it also has the opportunity to meet the acute needs of neighbors.

How do you operate without electric? Without water? How do you contact your employees in the midst of devastation? What do you do when confronted with looters? What do you expect of your suppliers in times of acute need? How do you resupply when access to the store is restricted or forbidden?

During a store’s 30 year lease, it is likely to confront civil unrest, terrorism, natural disaster, or other mayhem. Contingency planning should be part of the store manager’s playbook.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 7 months ago
There is a very large retailer already committed to this concept. Beyond the strategic and consumer centric ideas already noted, there is a very practical issue of “how to.” Using only spreadsheets and an Access data base, this retailer I know of has linked 7 day forecasts to dynamic assortment management. If a heat wave is forecast in a given region, the stores in that region flex their floor plan and receive additional depth and breadth of merchandise associated with mitigating heat effect. This is accomplished by having also shared this tactic with their manufacturers. Many of the items flexed are on a 2 day turnaround from the manufacturer to the DC, and another day to the stores. Factoring weather and weather events into dynamic assortment management and dynamic replenishment is absolutely a “best practice” worth paying attention to for some retailers. Having said all that, I also believe it’s a “sexy” thing to do which in many cases takes eyes and resources off the core issues with which many retailers are still struggling.
Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

The key here is to make this a regular part of the store. This will promote cross-merchandising activities, and drive consumers to this specific area each time they are in the store. Regular specials can keep the traffic pattern flowing to this area, and smart purchasing, in advance will ensure that quantities of key items (flashlights, batteries, water, safety kits, etc.) are always on-hand. Regional needs should be reflected as well (i.e. snow shovels for snow areas). The key to this success is increased consumer awareness, driving traffic to the location on a regular basis, and advance planning and purchasing to support each storm timeframe.

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