Winter Apparel Sales Suffer through Warm Winter Weather

The winter quarter, which includes the holiday season, generally makes up a slightly larger percentage of retailers’ sales and therefore is especially critical. Unseasonably warm weather is lingering, raising concerns for specialty outdoor gear retailers such as Columbia Sportswear. U.S. sales of boots and winter accessories fell 7% and 10% respectively in November compared with the same month last year, according to Planalytics.

"But despite the rise of weather planning and the use of analytics, retailers large and small say they have been stumped by this year’s warm start to the season, which has pushed temperatures into the high 60s along some parts of the East Coast. In some places, fading rose blooms and drooping flowers still cling to plants along some city streets," Tabuchi wrote in The New York Times' "Retailers Feel the Heat of Lost Winter Clothing Sales."

"Understandably, shoppers are not in the mood for winter coats or boots."

"Macy’s has already warned that it will need to offer big discounts to sell the winter inventory that is piling up in its stores after a slow third quarter. Analysts have blamed the weather for similarly underwhelming performance at Nordstrom. And the unseasonable weather has been no help to ailing retailers like J.Crew, which lost $760 million last quarter and had banked on the holiday season to rebound," according to The NYT.

Sales of women’s boots in New York plunged by 24 percent in the first half of December, according to data from Planalytics, a weather intelligence firm that works with some 250 retailers to plan for weather changes.

Nationally, sales of boots were down 3 percent because of the weather, as were sales of fleece items, according to Planalytics, which assesses previous sales numbers and weather patterns to analyze how much temperature swings and other weather changes are bolstering or hurting sales. Sales of hats, gloves and scarves were down 2 percent, the company said.

"Planalytics estimated that warm weather cost stores some $185 million in lost sales in November — a crucial time when stores expect consumer demand to surge –compared with last year," Adrianne Pasquarelli wrote in AdAge's "Stores Lost $185 Million in Sales Due to Warm Weather."

Temperatures for the week ended Dec. 12 were about 10% higher than last year for the U.S., according to Planalytics. The firm projects that temps will be up 4% overall for the month of December, driven by cities including New York, Nashville, Baltimore and Chicago.

"Of course, consumers should have more disposable income from the lower heating bills that come with warm weather," Pasquarelli wrote. But they're not spending that extra cash at retail stores, said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation.

"Consumer households are spending more on services," he said, noting that the cost of health care, phone services and rents have gone up. Auto insurance rates are expected to increase 3% this year as well.

"The warming trend has only worsened in recent weeks, with many analysts expecting huge markdowns for the end of the year — despite a swing back to cooler temperatures predicted by meteorologists for the end of the month," Pasquarelli said.

"But that could be too late for retailers, which are already losing margin in an effort to get goods out the door. Advertising experts expect marketing will become more promotional, highlighting discounts in the weeks ahead."

"The warmer than average weather continues to dampen demand for heavier winter items and has also resulted in a rash of discounting across a number of retailers which has, in turn, driven some volume — but largely at the expense of total value," wrote Neil Saunders, CEO of retail research firm Conlumino in a recent report.

This just means your retailers need to work harder to drive traffic! And that means they need you! So use this information on Men's Clothing Shoppers from AudienceSCAN and go after them. 19.1% of U.S. adults will spend at least $500 on men's clothing in the next 12 months for themselves or family. Try reaching them with sponsored search results (like on Google, Yahoo or Bing), because 39% of shoppers took action based on them in the past month. And TV is a safe bet with 44% taking action in the past month after viewing a commercial. Maybe start with some high-​end clothiers because this crowd is 108% more likely than average to shop at Nordstrom.

Courtney Huckabay
Courtney is the Editor for SalesFuel Today. She analyzes secondary customer research and our primary AudienceSCAN research. Courtney is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.