How Weather Can Impact Retailers

Seasonal variations often have a significant influence on consumer shopping habits.

October 16, 2020

WASHINGTON—In a typical year, the weather significantly impacts retail and shopping habits, the National Retail Federation blog reports. Evan Gold, executive vice president of global partnerships and alliances for Planalytics, discussed the ways weather influences the supply chain and retail stores, particularly in regard to seasonal items.

For example, this year, a cold April pushed back lawn and garden purchase until May. “The impact of weather has actually increased, because the weather is one of, if not the, largest external drivers of need for seasonal categories,” Gold said. He sees retailers pushing to move seasonal sales “to align with the climatological seasons.”

With a busy hurricane season so far this year, “from a retail perspective, people buy on the forecast of a storm. If customers are in the projected path of the storm, they will buy products to prepare, protect their property, regardless of the path the storm ultimately takes,” Gold said.

Gold predicted that the approaching winter will impact retail as well. “We’re still living with the disruptions of COVID-19, and the shopping patterns are not what they were last year,” he said. He suggested retailers have “a plan in place to minimize disruptions around weather, such as buy online, pick up in store, reducing wait times, offering shopping assistance, setting appointment-based shopping—anything you can do to make it easier for shoppers. The weather is going to impact that trip. It’s also going to influence what they buy.”

For the future, Gold said retailers should understand their risk to climate changes. “It will be different based on sector. Restaurants are different than home centers than apparel,” he said. Use your data to analyze patterns to seize opportunity and to better serve your customers. Start “closely aligning the shopping season with the climatological season. It’s a shift that we’re going to move forward,” he said.