Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Let it snow? Bah! humbug!

December 19, 2008

CANADA/Check out the winter wonderland.
As in, “I wonder if people are going to fight through the snow, sleet and rain this weekend to come to my store?”
A major storm headed for the Northeast could make things dicey for retailers on the last Saturday before Christmas, typically one of the biggest two shopping days of the year.
Retailers are hoping for a strong weekend to help lift what many analysts expect to be the worst holiday shopping season in about two decades.
But having just walked to work in Chicago, I can tell you that, depending on how this wintry mess hits the Northeast, consumers might have second thoughts about leaving their homes for the mall.
Planalytics, which measures the effect of weather on retailers, says the Northeast, lower Midwest and Great Lakes regions could see snow, sleet or freezing rain. On the West Coast, recent rainy conditions could continue to disrupt holiday traffic.
Along with steep discounts and extended hours, maybe retailer’s could offer door-to-door transportation.
Also in the basket:
Retailers may not rebound until 2010: analysts
Peltz’s Trian reports 7.18 pct stake in Dr Pepper
Beauty joins holiday’s discount mania (WWD, subscription required)

(Photo: Reuters)


This is just what retailers have been dreading. In normal years a lost shopping days during a key weekend is a big problem, this year it could be disaster.

Four reasons for potential downside surprise in December retail sales:

1. Horrible weather during the last 7-days of the holiday season, including snow in the northeast on the last weekend before Christmas.

2. Elevated risk of snow events in the east through the balance of the holiday season and the end of the December fiscal period.

3. Sustained bitter cold weather across the northern US and Pacific Northwest.

4. Spending on non-discretionary seasonal items largely exhausted in November and late-October

On the positive side, what is bad for bricks and mortar retailers is great for on-line retailers. This kind of weather is very positive for internet shopping and will likely fuel even stronger on-line sales this year.


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