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  • 24 Feb

What effect does the weather really have on retail sales?

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In the UK the weather is often erratic and unpredictable, it can put us in a good mood or it can put us in a bad one, especially when you get caught in the rain without an umbrella. But can the British weather really have an impact on our retailers, and if so to what extent?

In an interview conducted by the BBC it explains how this dramatic swing from, “Ice-cream to umbrellas” has a severe impact on market stall retailers but also poses an issue for all retailers (big or small).  The interview in question reveals that there are two key factors which influence how people shop.

1. The general state of the economy and how ‘well off’ people feel

2. The weather

But if this is the case what can retailers do about it. Tesco use a system that cross checks an accumulation of 5 years’ worth of data with information about every product in every store, every day of the week. Treeva Fenwick , Head of Broadcast and Consumer Communications at Tesco ‎ comments that this allows them to accurately predict what people want, allowing them to appropriately stock their stores.  Their weather system is so specific it can even indicate the temperate at which sales of burgers will go up.

Although most companies don’t have pockets as deep as Tesco there is still data being produced that can provide predictions which can still give an indication of weather patterns.

Weather effective sales account for around 4.5% of overall sales, a number that could determine between a profit or a loss.  With weathers complicated effect on retail sales, it means different goods are affected at different times of year. Seasonality plays a big part in this, shoppers don’t want it to be hot all the time, or cold all the time, if anything too hot and people will be in parks and beer gardens and too cold they will be at home.  Shoppers want weather that is appropriate to the season.  This in turn not only makes it easier for them to shop but also easier for retailers to predict trends.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay states that the dampening retail sales may be more than just bad weather.  He highlighted that that it may be more of an economy issue.  With a busy festive period maybe the economy is suffering as a result of people watching their money in the aftermath of Christmas, thus the weather is only a partial contributor to the retail downturn.  Yet, lead retail analyst Patrick O’Brien states that the weather “undoubtedly has an effect.”

There is no questioning the fact that recent severe flooding and erratic weather conditions that have recently hit the UK, are hindering retail spends with people literally unable to leave their homes.

For now retailers should try and just focus on seasonal adjustments of their stock. We face a future where climate and the weather are going to become less and less predictable, so by embracing omnichannel retailing, providing your customer with more ways to shop, whether that be in store or from the comfort of their own homes appears to be the direction you should go to minimise any lost revenue as a result of the weather.

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