In a word: nope!
I’m still bullish.
Even given the dramatic media coverage and significant regional impacts of the early April “bomb cyclone” my reasoning for a much more favorable late March and April still holds.
Here’s what’s true regarding my expectation of the effect of weather on demand for spring products this year:
We’ve had an incredibly easy weather comparison to last April. Warmer temperatures this year will translate into increased demand for spring merchandise — particularly lawn & garden and apparel.
It was a late winter with a colder than normal February and first half of March. When the weather breaks cabin fever sets in and consumers break out. It happens every year. This year it happened 3 to 4 weeks earlier than last year.
A later Easter meant a longer pre-holiday selling period with (much) warmer temperatures than last year.
When comparing the weekly temperature trends to last year it’s clear that about 80% of U.S. consumers have been enjoying milder temperatures this year and that trend is likely to continue though the balance of April.
There’s been a lot of dramatic and high impact weather events, but from the perspective of the national change in weather-driven demand for spring merchandise and consumables the trend has been very positive.
The so-called bomb cyclone event and subsequent snow and bitter cold no doubt had a significant regional impact.
But, the macro-level impact on U.S. retail was not enough to change the very positive spring weather-driven demand trajectory from last year.
The comp almost doesn’t get better than this for spring merchandise sales.
The Reverse Bath Tub
The challenge for retailers will come as we move into the second quarter and the weather comparison becomes far more difficult against what was a very late (but strong) start to spring last year.
For example, here’s how Kantar Retail IQ described last year’s weather impact on Home Depot —
While a late start to spring weather dampened sales in Q1, Home Depot experienced what it refers to as “the bathtub effect” in Q2, in which most lost sales from Q1 spilled over into Q2. During a critical selling period for the DIY channel, many seasonal categories, such as lawnmowers, watering, and patios, posted strong comps. Notably, the lawn category, which suffered in Q1, posted record comps in Q2, highlighting the benefit from delayed weather.
This year we’ll likely see a reverse bath tub with (beneficial and profitable!) demand sloshing forward into April (and Q1) but leaving a comp challenge for May and early June.
Of course, while the weather impact on seasonal categories in April have been very favorable — particularly for Home Centers, Mass, Specialty and even Department Stores — there are still underlying economic headwinds that may impact total sales.
But even with that caveat, Mother Nature delivered for retailers this spring with fair skies and, hopefully, following sales.