Extreme Weather Complicating Life for Retailers

The retail industry might yearn for consistency and the ability to efficiently churn out new looks for customers at fat margins — but so little ever stays the same.

Style trends are a moving target. Shoppers migrate from stores to e-commerce and back. Supply chains are always on the move.

And the weather has now become more of a wild card.

As the planet warms — and 2023 was the hottest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — instances of extreme weather have increased.

That could mean more snow or less, flooding, hurricanes or — this month — some of all of that. New York City saw its first real snow in more than a year while other parts of the country were hit with blizzards or flooding or tornadoes.

Weather changes have always been part of the picture for retail, but it’s all become more volatile lately and harder for retail to navigate, where big storms and other weather events can both give and take.

“Next week almost 90 percent of the markets in the U.S. are going to dip below freezing,” said Evan Gold, executive vice president of global partnership and Alliances at Planalytics, which quantifies how weather impacts businesses.

“It’s not totally uncommon for this time of year, but still, as warm as it’s been, that’s going to change some consumer purchasing,” Gold said. “We had a very warm fall. November and December were also — there were pockets of cold — but for the most part, [the holiday season] was warm.”

On one hand, the cold weather will keep shoppers away.

“Overall foot traffic is dipping for most businesses,” he said. “We see a 5 to 10 percent decline in [retail foot] traffic this week and next week.”

But those shoppers who are coming in are on a mission.

“Anything that needs to be cleared for winter, like boots, gloves, sweaters — they’re all up double digits, easy, last week, this week, next week for sure,” he said. “The opportunity is to get to clear it and potentially to clear it at a higher margin now than you might if you waited a couple weeks.”

To keep up with the changes in weather, retailers have to stay agile and be ready to move and react quickly — or be content to be more prepared and less efficient.

“The winners, regardless of what sector you’re in, are those that are doing everything they can to just to better serve their customer or better serve their community,” Gold said. “Whether it’s a significant extreme event like flooding or just making sure they have enough heaters for when it gets below freezing for people at night.”

SOURCE: Women’s Wear Daily

About Michael Zotos 468 Articles
Founder and owner of Performer.com/Performer Media LLC, a multimedia content creator for a variety of national plus local print & electronic media affiliates.