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Be prepared for the weather to impact the holiday shopping season

November 14, 2016 | By Mark Ebel, Vice President, Business Services—AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has issued a sunny forecast for holiday sales, within the months of November and December. They are calling for a 3.4% increase in brick-and-mortar sales and a 10.3% increase in online holiday sales. The NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model that uses indicators such as consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly sales releases.

Of course, savvy retailers and those who work with them – as advertisers, partners, distributors, etc. – will also be watching our forecasts as will their potential customers. No matter how much money buyers have in their wallets or bank accounts, if the roads are hazardous due to a winter storm, traditional retail will suffer slow days at the register. If the same storm takes out power in a part of the northeast, online sales will also be hurt. And as happened in 2015, if there is fall like warmth in the air, no amount of marketing is going to move those winter parkas.

As the leader in pinpoint and long-range forecasting for business intelligence, we work with companies in every industry to help meet their specific needs. Supply chain and inventory, promotions and advertising, even foot traffic and web traffic all are impacted by weather.

If you or your partners and advertisers are counting on strong Holiday Sales, here are a few things you should know, brought to you by the meteorologists and analysts of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions. (Spoiler Alert: If you are counting on November-December 2016 behaving like 2015 you’re likely to be taken by surprise.)

November Turkey & Shopping Season:
Look for a calm start throughout much of the U.S. But don’t expect it to stay that way.

  • After a mild start to November, we are expecting temperatures to cool to near or even below normal from the northern Plains to the Northeast. This change includes cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit to New York City and Boston.
  • An active storm track through the northern Plains into the Great Lakes may enhance the risk for some snowfall particularly across northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Week three of November and beyond is the best chances. This can impact travel, airports and roadways on the negative side for this region.
  • Some lake effect snow looks possible during the holiday week as well as colder air filter over the relatively warm waters. Right along the lake-shore may be too mild for all snow, but just inland, travel can be rough in spots.
  • The Southwest looks to remain warm and dry.
  • Southern Plains, southern Rockies and most of the Carolinas mainly dry with weak impacts from cold fronts compared to areas further north.

The Big December Holidays:
This year won’t be as mild as December 2015 and retailers should be ready.

  • Compared to last year, it is expected to be much colder across the northern tier and slightly warmer across the southern tier.  Temperatures were close to 60 in Chicago and in the 70s in New York City around Christmas last year, which is 25-35 degrees above normal. This year should be closer, or perhaps, below normal around Christmas in these cities.
  • With a colder air mass around, lake effect snow can be more impressive downwind of the Great Lakes. Buffalo, Erie, Syracuse are just a few cities that can be impacted with heavy snowfall.
  • The northern Plains through the Great Lakes into the Northeast will see fast moving storms featuring some snowfall, likely more than we last year along with colder conditions.
  • The Northwest looks to feature a more active regime this season, with more opportunities for rain and mountain snows.
  • The Southeast will be mainly mild and dry, but increasing cold fronts will provide cooler conditions north during this time near the New Year.

What does the forecast mean for retailers
aes_retail_onesheet_final
Remember, consumer behavior is based on consumer’s perceptions based on recent years – not on historical averages. Winter parkas and sports equipment that had to be sold at a discount following last year’s holiday season in many parts of the U.S. will be in higher demand this year. But the winter weather can also take away from foot traffic to retail outlets and create supply challenges can also give to online retailers.

  • Compared to last year, Holiday shoppers in the Northeast will perceive this year colder and snowier and this will ultimately affect consumer behavior with a holiday season that looks promising for retailers selling winter-related products.
  • Above average snowfall and colder weather during the month of December for the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and Interior New England has the potential to cause moderate to high disruption for brick and mortar stores. However, the same disruptions for retail outlets could mean a boost in online sales.
  • December appears to have a stark jump in demand for winter related merchandize and with the expected long, extended winter, inventory levels will have to keep up.
  • Delivery of products will be dependent on the frequency and quantity of snowfall. Maximum daily snowfall may exceed 6 inches in the northern tier of the country as rounds of wintry weather plagues cities from St. Paul, MN to Boston, MA.  This will increase the likelihood of shipment delays so it is essential businesses ensure timely and effective management for high risk areas.

Ensuring Bright & Profitable Holidays
It’s a fact that weather impacts nearly every part of our economy in the U.S. and globally. It drives demand, impacts supply lines, and makes clear winners and losers in a competitive retail landscape.

The difference is business intelligence. AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions works with clients to give them a more complete operational view on a location and SKU level and driven by AccuWeather SmartWarn™, the most advanced weather forecast engine in the world.

SmartWarn has the most complete global real-time and historical weather data including unique real-time datasets from around the world with exclusive observations, satellite, and radar platforms and the most robust database of forecast models, proprietary patented technology, and comprehensive validation results – SmartWarn helps AccuWeather deliver forecasts with Superior Accuracy for enterprises in every industry.

A surprising number of global enterprises are still taking big chances with the weather, using two-year averages instead of detailed, long-term analysis, relying on free weather reports that don’t cover the season, and allowing each location to make its own determinations ad hoc rather than establishing a corporate standard.

Although Halloween is barely behind us, it’s not too early to start thinking about Holiday Shopping. Whether you’re thinking about your own list of loved ones or the profitability of your holiday season, it’s too important to leave up to chance.


mark-ebelMark Ebel serves as Vice President of Business Services for AccuWeather, leading all aspects of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions commercial solutions division. Worldwide in scope, Ebel’s main areas of focus include the development and oversight of AccuWeather’s B2B strategic plan and product innovation roadmaps to deliver a new level of business intelligence.

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