The Impact of Fluctuating Weather on Retail Sales

I’m happy to share the details of my most recent appearance on the Fox Weather channel! This week I discussed the impact of fluctuating weather on retail sales and consumer trends.

(For those in the US, you can watch the segment here via the Fox Weather Channel live stream).

Cold Snaps & Commerce

We’re all impacted by the weather patterns and local conditions where we live: It influences the things we buy, when we buy, and how we buy.

The influence of weather on our purchasing habits is both direct (e.g. purchases of traditional ‘seasonal items’ like gloves, hats, tissues, etc) and indirect (impacting store footfall, etc.).

Due to the proliferation of increasingly accurate weather predictions, now available to almost all of us, the impact of weather trends and forecasts on our habits and decision-making is growing.

The challenge that businesses face is that things are not predictably ‘seasonal’ anymore. For many locations in the eastern US, October was one of the warmest on record, making this sudden taste of winter all the more jarring.

Instantaneous and unpredictable weather changes result in pent-up demand: we’re seeing a huge spike in demand for seasonal goods in the East, whereas in the Midwest we’re seeing the reverse of that, as people experience milder conditions – and expect this winter to be a fairly mild one.

To account for fluctuations in normal seasonality, businesses are increasingly using data and analytics to monitor weather conditions at a very local level. In particular, retail companies are using hyper-local weather forecasts to ensure they’re stocked up with the right goods in the right places, and to ensure their messaging fits the environmental reality.

Kleenex is a great example here. They ran an ad campaign that boosted sales by 40% by targeting their tissue products at locations where people would need them more than others.

What Can We Expect this Winter?

More of the same! The probability is that we might be a little warmer than usual but in all likelihood, we’ll see volatility and dispersion of different weather conditions across the US. The best advice is to plan ahead and make sure you have what you need; supply chain issues are already a reality.

Improved weather and environmental forecasts can also help businesses become more resilient in the face of increasingly volatile weather conditions.

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Paul Walsh Weather Man
Paul Walsh

Previously at IBM and The Weather Company, I have decades of experience in helping large consumer businesses re-imagine how they systemically leverage weather and climate data in both supply and demand chain systems -- creating integrated enterprise processes that are more responsive and more resilient in the face of increasingly impactful weather conditions. My observations have been featured in the US on The Weather Channel and CNBC, & I've been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and The New York Times. Connect with me!