It’s Not Just the Pandemic —  Winter Weather Matters in 2020

It’s Not Just the Pandemic —  Winter Weather Matters in 2020
Colder weather earlier this year played a role in retail as the pandemic intesified.

It’s not just the pandemic that retailers have to worry during the 2020 holiday shopping season. How cold or warm it will be in December will also impact shopping — and that’s not the only meteorological factor at play for retailers as 2021 approaches.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has published an interview with Evan Gold, EVP of global partnerships and alliances for business weather intelligence firm Planalytics. Gold has more than 20 years' experience in retail and wholesale, working at Macy’s and LakeWest Group before joining Berwyn, Pennsylvania-based Planalytics in 2005. He spoke with Washington, D.C.-based NRF about the ways weather impacts retail and the supply chain, and the discussion serves as a reminder that a virus isn’t the only wildcard that retailer face this year.

“In a typical year, the weather has a significant impact on retail," Gold said. :Of course, 2020 has been anything but typical. But this year, the impact of weather has actually increased, because the weather is one of, if not the, largest external drivers of need for seasonal categories.”

He offered an example of how the weather has already played a role in retail earlier in the pandemic.

“The first full month of quarantine, we had the coldest April since 2013," Gold noted. "We weren’t out there buying spring products. We were wanting to take care of our lawn and garden, and Mother Nature said, ‘Not yet.’ We didn’t buy a lot of those spring products until May.”

The discussion took place amid an extraordinarily active late hurricane season, and as predictions emerged for a generally warmer U.S. winter this year than was the case in 2019. Such warmer weather could bring benefits and challenges alike to retailers.

“It depends on when and where the warmth is," Gold told the NRF. "With that background in mind, in general, on a very macro level, warmer weather in December can help store traffic. [Consumers] may be more likely to shop if it feels warmer to them. When it’s warm in December, people may spend more on outdoor lighting and lawn ornaments, because it’s more pleasant to put them out. If it’s warm, it’s a negative for all the seasonal apparel.”

In the longer term, retailers and consumer will turn to technology to deal with climate variations, especially when it comes to supply-chain issues.

“The customer has more access to information at their fingertips and the ability to shop whenever they want,” Gold said. “As the weather becomes more volatile, the shopper is shopping based on need. If you layer in weather and can have an idea of what they’re going to buy, or do more prescriptive analytics, and be able to market and advertise into that, they’re more likely to buy from your brand.”

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