The weather outside is not so frightful, which means retailers are in luck this year: holiday season weather is expected to be standard to slightly warmer than usual, resulting in $720 billion in retail sales, a $28 billion (4.1%) increase over 2017, according to AccuWeather. Approximately 25% of the yearly change in national holiday sales can be explained by weather.
AccuWeather’s holiday sales projection is only “infinitesimally” lower than the bottom end of the 4.3% to 4.8% growth predicted by the National Retail Federation (NRF), according to Dr. Joel Myers, Founder and President of AccuWeather. The largest impact weather has had so far this year was over Black Friday Weekend, when temperatures in the East dropped as low as 20 degrees beneath the 30-year average, according to Myers.
“Some places are above normal, some are below normal, but the biggest effect until now has been that it’s been cold in the East,” said Myers in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Temperatures have been more than four degrees below normal since Thanksgiving, and they are sitting nearly two degrees below normal in Chicago. Some of that will be compensated for and made up, but we knew that would be the case.”
That cold snap could be partially responsible for the growth of e-Commerce and mobile sales from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, with East Coast shoppers making purchases from the warmth of their homes rather than face the cold. Some of these “lost” brick-and-mortar sales could be made up by warmer temperatures as the season progresses, since sales increase 0.358% for every degree warmer a given period is than the previous year.
Weather also can be a powerful influence on which products consumers buy, and when. While a snowstorm may keep people from going out to buy the coat they want, a mild winter overall means shoppers may be willing to put off buying a new coat until next year. Conversely, a chilly fall may drive interest in sweaters and coats even earlier than usual.
“The weather affects so many things,” said Myers. “If you’re in a showroom thinking about a car and it’s snowing outside, you’re 16% more likely to buy a four-wheel drive vehicle. People are influenced significantly at the moment as to what they buy and how they think. If it’s windy and rain’s pelting against the window, you feel a little less secure. What you buy, or what food you eat, is about giving you more comfort.”