Retail and weather go together
Record-breaking snowfalls and frigid temperatures across the Plains, Great Lakes and Northeast are expected to depress in-store traffic, but may also help move remaining cold-weather clearance items off selling floors.
The “complex and nuanced” ways weather can influence sales were explored in a National Retail Federation and Planalytics’ report, “5 Myths About the Weather & Its Impact on Retail.”
- Myth 1: You can’t plan for the weather: Heat waves, snow storms, cold snaps, etc. can now be forecasted in advance. While planning decisions are often set weeks or months in advance, retailers and suppliers can make nearer-term adjustments to inventory, supply chain operations, labor scheduling and marketing.
- Myth 2: It all evens out in the end: Timing, location, strength and duration of favorable or unfavorable weather make a big difference. Cold weather’s arrival, for instance, provides a much bigger lift to coat sales and their profitability if it occurs in November versus January. While the weekly grocery stock-up is often made a day or two later, an individual avoiding buying a cup of coffee due to lousy weather isn’t going to purchase two the following day. For DIY retailers, the arrival of warm weather in May or June is too late for many households to tackle certain outdoor projects.
- Myth 3: Consumers will shop during the holidays, regardless of the weather: Similar to Myth 2, cold weather arriving early in the holiday season helps drive full-price boot and outerwear sales and allows retailers to avoid earlier and/or steeper markdowns.
- Myth 4: My products aren’t seasonal, so the weather doesn’t affect me: Many non-seasonal products can be affected by weather. Cooler weather props up coffee sales. Favorable weather in January has proven to drive jewelry sales ahead of Valentine’s Day. Also, any boost in store traffic for more weather-dependent categories often leads to consumers picking up other items.
- Myth 5: I’m an online retailer — the weather doesn’t impact me: Extreme events or just rainy weather can drive consumers to stay indoors and drive spikes in website traffic. Sunny days tend to drive in-store traffic. Online brand-specific messages can be tailored to weather conditions (i.e., boots when it’s snowing).
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which of the myths listed are most detrimental to retail planning?What’s your general advice on adjusting to weather conditions, whether for big stores or independents?