Santa may need to keep the sleigh in the garage and hitch a ride on a newly registered drone this year with Christmas Eve temperatures in much of the country forecast to continue to be unseasonably warm by the National Weather Service. That ongoing pattern has put a big chill on sales of winter clothing and gear.
“November was the planet’s warmest month on record, in addition to an unusually strong El Niño effect heating up the US and Europe, and the change has carved a chunk out of retailers who rely on the weather for clothing sales,” writes Sam Thielman for the Guardian.
“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 reports in Ad Age.
“The warming trend has only worsened in recent weeks, with many analysts expecting huge markdowns for the end of the year,” she writes, pointing out, however, that it may turn colder for the last shopping weekend before Christmas, according to Paul Walsh of The Weather Company.
“Normally, the first very cold day of the year prompts shoppers to head to the store for a new winter coat if they need one. While there, they shop for other seasonal clothing,” writes Laura Northrup for Consumerist. “This hasn’t happened yet, which leaves retailers with stacks of coats, sweaters, hats, mittens, and boots and nowhere to put their spring fashion offerings.”
Which is good news for bargain hunters — as long as they don’t get too hoity-toity about what brand they’ll put on their backs.
“Due to the decline in sales, stock piled up and now shops are looking to unload the merchandise at huge discounts,” Joseph Edwards reports for WREX 13 out of Rockford, Ill. “Coats and other winter gear are marked down, even for the week before Christmas, where experts expect the largest discounts to land as retailers try to unload,” although high-end brands such as Canada Goose and Uggs are expected to stay high-end.
Indeed, “it’s warm out, but the fashionistas are all wearing their Canada Goose,” Arthur Zaczkiewicz of Women’s Wear Daily tells the Guardian’s Thielman. “They’re sweating, but they’re doing it. Fashion trumps the weather.”
But Zaczkiewicz agrees that the weather has been a disaster for togs with less prestigious tags.
“This is the warmest December in nine years and it’s going to be warm in the near future; it doesn’t bode well if you’re a brand like North Face or Columbia,” Zaczkiewicz says. “Both those brands had earnings revised by analysts.”
It hasn’t boded well for New York furriers, either, as it turns out. Sales at Stuart Greenberg’s Corniche Furs wholesale business have been down 30% this month, Hiroko Tabuchi writes for the New York Times.
“For the first 10 years of our business, we never even paid attention to the weather. It always just got cold,” Greenberg tells Tabuchi. “These days, we wake up and we look at the 10-day forecast to see whether we’re going to do business or not. I’ve been in the business 20 years, and I haven’t seen a December like this.”
What’s moving are “capes, vests, raincoats with fur trimming and lighter-weight furs — items tailored more to fashion than warmth.”
Tabuchi point out that fast-fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara are faring better than Macy’s, J. Crew and Gap, where inventories are not as fluid.
“The after-Christmas sales are going to be ginormous, Bill Kirk, CEO of Weather Trends tells Buzzfeed New’s Sapna Maheshwari. “If you saw 50% off sales last year after Christmas, you might expect 75%-off next year. It will be exponentially better because there’s so much inventory to clear.”
Some companies, such as Land’s End, can pack it all away for the 2016-17 season but “that’s not an option for many retailers, especially those selling fashion-oriented goods,” Maheshwari writes. And “carrying costs are ‘enormous’ on merchandise that sits in a warehouse for eight months,” Kirk says. “It’s much better for them to just give it away, because they’re still going to make a little bit of money on these products even at 80% off.”
Meanwhile, there’s still been no snow in the always-precipitous Buffalo, NY, where, on July 29, there was still a 12-foot high pile of sooty stuff from a storm that passed through in November 2014.