How bad weather affects retail

How bad weather affects retail

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When adverse weather hits, the lure of online shopping becomes even stronger. With a harsh winter predicted ahead of us, retailers will have to up their game to ensure footfall remains strong. Our recent survey* found that 63 per cent of shoppers prefer online to high street shopping, fuelled by a growing proportion of consumers ‘showrooming’ – 83 per cent admit to finding the best deals online before visiting high street stores.

Marks & Spencer and Next both cited unusually warm weather in October as the primary cause for poor sales of winter clothes, but statisticians have found that the correlation is inconclusive. So is the argument that adverse or unexpected conditions are to blame for low takings limited? In January, Retail Week reported on the ONS figures over the past ten years, which showed a complicated relationship between climate and sales figures.

To attract consumers into stores and increase spending, retailers must stay relevant. This means adapting to poor weather conditions so the customer journey remains enjoyable. When the cold weather hits, we are less inclined to wait in long queues, and are more likely to shop online. Using technology to improve the efficiency of the in-store shopping experience is one way to combat this trend. Retailers who accept changing customer behaviours and alter their offerings accordingly will be ones who succeed.

Retail experts acknowledge the need for brands to be prepared to accommodate unseasonal weather changes. Karl McKeever, leading retail consultant and founder of agency Visual Thinking, says:

“Often, it can be as simple as looking out the window. Harrods, for example, changes its digital screen content in-store according to the weather. If it’s raining, shoppers entering the store are immediately directed to hats, coats and scarves. The same principles can be applied to traditional visual merchandising techniques, such as in-store and window displays. It’s all about relevance, and retailers need to be agile and adaptable in order to maximise sales opportunities.”

With ever-unpredictable weather on the cards, improving the customer journey will continue to be at the forefront of retailers’ minds to strengthen footfall. Solutions such as Virtual Queuing and Inline Mobile, which make shopping a more streamlined and tailored experience for the individual customer will deliver a level of service that encourages retailers’ high street offer.

*independent survey conducted by Tensator Group October 2014.