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How weather affects retail sales

Q3 2015

While there are seasonal trends in retail - bank holidays, Christmas and regular sales - the weather can also play a large part in sales and even pricing.

While there are seasonal trends in retail - bank holidays, Christmas and regular sales - the weather can also play a large part in sales and even pricing.

From hot summers to wet winters, the conditions can determine how consumers buy, what they buy, when retailers introduce new lines and when sales periods start.

It’s a fine balancing act for many retailers, with those managing to take advantage of shifts in the weather getting the best results.  Running the right promotions at the right time can lead to a considerable increase in sales and profits.

When the sun shines

It doesn’t happen as often as we’d like, but the sun plays its part in retail ups and downs.

One of the biggest influences it has is the introduction of new lines. If weather experts predict an early summer, with good weather in April and May, shops could be convinced to bring in their summer lines earlier. This could mean beach clothing, BBQs or camping equipment, which all sell well when the weather is good.

But this can, of course, be risky. If the expected early hot weather fails to materialise and the summer is a washout, many retailers could be forced to start their sales early to get rid of unsold stock.

Also, as many fashion firms often introduce next season’s ranges before the season arrives, an Indian summer running into September could mean they have to discount the already introduced Autumn/Winter ranges to make sure they hit sales targets.

The sun isn’t always good for retail. Warm winters can cause a drop in seasonal products like blankets, gloves, logs for fires, snow shovels etc.

A rainy day

Periods of extended wet weather can seriously dampen the spirit of many shoppers, but it’s not doom and gloom for everyone. Shopping centres benefit from this type of weather as people avoid the exposed high streets and head indoors.

To take advantage of these wet weather shoppers, centres have been introducing a number of activities – these could include bowling, cinema, restaurants and organised events. During the summer holidays particularly, these offer families looking for a day out options during the cooler days.

Wet days can also lead to an increase in food sales, as people spend more time indoors and opt to cook bigger, family meals instead of venturing outside for a restaurant meal or takeaway.

Britain’s unpredictable weather has even led some retailers like Bon Marche to weatherproof their collections. As many fashion stores fail to sell their summer stock when it rains, they sometimes have too much left over. Bon Marche has been adapting its lines to make them more suitable for cooler, wetter summers.

Cold weather

Brits can expect cool weather all year round, and it can seriously affect our shopping habits. An extended winter, which brings cold days into March and April, can lead to drops in clothing sales as people aren’t ready to invest in the new Spring/Summer ranges yet.

One of the biggest changes is that people abandon both the high street and shopping centres and turn online. With food and clothes shopping becoming more common online, during cold weather people opt to visit their favourite high street stores’ websites instead of going to browse in person.

But it can bring good news for other sellers. Duvet sales rise over cold winters while figures show a drop of just 10% in average temperature can lead to a 100% increase in the number of electric blankets sold.

Food also does well during colder periods. In 2013, the coldest March for 50 years saw a spike in sales of hearty meals.

If the weather gets too cold and the country gets one of its snow storms, it can cause high street retail to ground to a halt, as people don’t want to risk getting into their cars. This causes chaos if it happens either in the run up to Christmas or during the January sales – both periods when retailers are looking to boost their takings.

Petrol sales are also hit as cars are left on driveways, while forecasts for upcoming snow storms can lead to a surge in sales of snow shovels, salt for paths, and non-perishable food goods.