Don't blame it on the sunshine

Published by Matthew Deaves on Tuesday, 06 Aug 2013

Don’t blame it on the sunshine, Don’t blame it on the moonlight, Don’t blame it on the good times, Blame it on the……… er….product mix! - Mike Parkes, Programme Director of OSS Master.

After a torrid wet summer in 2012, with the minor exception of the glorious Olympic weather, no amount of wellies and umbrella sales could ever really compensate for the extensive summer range offered by the multiples and clothing retailers, In fact it was summed up by one prominent retailer “we’re down on all lines except slug pellets and I defy any business to be propped up by slug pellet sales.“

So this year, we have July’s heat wave, surely a blessing to retail, the streets and the malls must be packed with shoppers, there won't be any excuses but even that’s proving problematic. Put aside the uplift in sausages, burgers, barbecues, fans and paddling pools and once more recreational shopping has been hit hard, as shoppers clamour for those rays, preferring to spend days out at the coast, in the garden or partaking of the offerings in the local hostelry, in fact it’s “too hot to shop”, it’s even too hot to do those jobs in the garden.

So too wet! too hot! Is retail truly another victim of the weather?........ In truth, yes, but this is rarely an acceptable response in the sector, as extensive analysis and dissecting of range, offers and service takes place with every fluctuation in the climate. Retail isn't alone, the Insurance sector is savaged by the climatic extremes we have all seen the impact of, floods, snow, high winds and even extreme heat which all serve to push up claims and therefore costs . So are there ideal weather conditions for recreational shopping? Talk to most retailers and they'll tell you when shopping is at its best, I even had some temperatures quoted to me, between 16-20° seems ideal – not too hot to shop neither too cold to undermine that summer range.

So what does this mean to retail? Fact, the weather has a direct impact on retail sales, it's reality not an excuse but the extent of the impact is largely dependent upon the reliance on the seasonal nature of the product range. No longer are we faced by traditional seasons, we seem to have climates within climates, so buying that is based on our traditional four cycle seasons is inherently going to be exposed to the large climatic variations that we are experiencing.

At the heart of this challenge is the agility and responsiveness of retailers to counter the variances. This isn’t about propping up the front of a store with umbrellas or sunglasses, but having a product mix and offering that is robust and sustainable in our wet summers, mild winters, tropical autumns and cold springs, or any variation on these! In addition shorter lead times and more local sourcing makes retailers less susceptible to the dramatic fluctuations we've seen over the last 10 years.

Despite the reluctance to accept it, you can blame it (to some degree) on the sunshine, or the lack of it, but more on the product mix to compensate the business for our unseasonal seasons..

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