Let’s hope for a good summer
Last weekend the clocks went forward in the UK. This means longer evenings, the grass needs cutting, and it’s time to dust off the BBQ. For retail, supermarkets have started to change what products they stock. Out go hats, woolly jumpers, and stew ingredients, and they will be replaced by BBQ equipment, salads, and perhaps optimistically, sun-tan lotion.
But the weather also has a significant impact on how much shoppers buy. When researchers analysed sales across 2,043 shops over a two-year period, they found that variation in the weather explained 3.5% of the differences in daily sales[i]. Most of this makes intuitive sense, on hotter days sales increase, and when the weather is bad (e.g., it’s raining, windy or too humid) sales decrease. But some shops are hit more than others. The effect is far greater for stores on the high-street than those based on an out-of-town shopping centre. For shops located on the high-street, changes to the weather explain up to 5.5% of sales variance whereas it’s less than 1% for shops on out-of-town shopping centres. When shopping on the highstreets we spend more time walking outside, either window shopping or simply walking from one store to the next, resulting in the weather having a greater impact on sales.
Are southerners really softer?
Interestingly, the effect also differs across the country. People who live in more rural areas or areas of the country that are more used to extreme weather (for example, the southwest or Northern UK, where there are stronger costal winds, higher rates of rain and on average lower temperatures) are less impacted by the weather when shopping. Bad weather is just a fact of everyday life, so we get used to it. Conversely people who live in London, an area that is on average 10'C warmer than neighbouring rural areas, and that has half the annual rainfall compared to the rest of the UK, are most effected by the weather when shopping. (Feel free to insert your own joke about people who live in London here….)
So far, we’ve been talking about generalisations, and assuming that the weather effects all stores equally. However, that’s not the case. Typically, if it's heavy rain, sales of footwear, clothing, cosmetics, and even beverages are dramatically down (especially beer in the summer). On the positive side, rain tends to increase the sales of books and DIY equipment. It turns out if we can't go to the garden, people like to spend more time doing up their house and cuddling up with a good book[ii]. But even if it’s not a wet summer, and simply colder than normal that’s enough to change sales. We’re more likely to shop online and spend more on household products. Whereas in autumn, sales of textile, clothing, footwear, and cosmetics all increase if its colder than normal.
So fingers crossed for a nice summer – that is unless you sell books! And whilst we obviously can’t control the weather (nor retail calendars which are often planned well in advance) – we CAN be aware of the impact weather will have on shopping behaviour and we can potentially use this to our advantage in planning our digital advertising spend and/or tactical real-time coms across channels such as social media.
[i] Rose, N., & Dolega, L. (2022). It’s the weather: Quantifying the impact of weather on retail sales. Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy, 15(1), 189-214. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12061-021-09397-0
[ii] Bertrand, J. L., & Parnaudeau, M. (2017). No more blaming the weather: a retailer’s approach to measuring and managing weather variability. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 45(7/8), 730-761.
Images by: pikisuperstar, storyset on Freepik