Does the weather affect how you shop?

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. To prove the point, given the recent good weather over the Easter period, here at Retail Maxim we recently ran a consumer poll to ask the following questions:

“Has the recent good weather affected how much you have spent in retail stores on FOOD items such as BBQ items and salads etc?”

The results from our poll of over 1300 consumers showed that over 15% of people indicated that they have undertaken more food shopping due to the sunny weather.  That’s a significant uplift!

We also wanted to see if the effect was as great in the non-food sector so we asked:

Has the recent good weather affected how much you have spent in retail stores on NON-FOOD items such clothes and household goods?

Again with a poll of over 1300 consumers, although the effect does not seem to be as great, there was also an uplift with nearly 9% of consumers indicating that they have spent more on non-food items due to the good weather.

This ‘weather effect’ can, of course, work both ways. If expected early hot weather fails to materialise in any given year and the summer is a washout, many retailers are often 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 can 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 introduced 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.

Cold weather…

Brits can expect cool weather all year round, and it can seriously affect our shopping habits. As we have seen in previous years, 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. As we have discussed before this is why, increasingly, retailers need to be geared up with an Omni-channel strategy to give the power to their customers to buy from them in whichever way they want to at any particular point in time.

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. We saw this with the ‘Beast from the East’ last year.

There is one thing for sure and it’s a simple truth that nobody can control the weather but retailers need to be prepared to adapt to all eventualities. It’s a given that part of their strategy should be the ability to offer great service whatever the weather! That’s why, here at Retail Maxim, we believe passionately in working with our clients to monitor, develop and improve their service offerings.

Contact us here for further information.