Weather a Hot Topic at the National Retail Federation Big Show

Had the opportunity to chat with my friend and former colleague (and self-described weather geek), CNBC Senior Economic Analyst Steve Liesman at the National Retail Federation Big Show last week in New York.

He’d just finished interviewing former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen and Kara Swisher, Host of the Recode Decode Podcast.

The topic of the panel?

Impact at scale: Leading in prosperous yet uncertain economic times

While the discussion wasn’t directly related to weather and climate, the spirit of the title at least was relevant to the uncertainty consumer businesses face every day as it relates to the volatility in consumer demand that is created by the weather and, by proxy, the climate.

See: “Climate is just a thousand little weather’s

An alternative title could have been framed as: “Impact at scale: Leading in prosperous yet uncertain climatic times.”

The combination of a changing climate and consumers that are more connected, more demanding and with more retail choices means that the effect of the weather (and the weather forecast!) on consumer demand is increasing.

The uncertainty is creating increased risk … but also increased opportunity.

See: Just add weather

As someone who’s been at the bleeding edge of the topic of weather integration into retail systems, I was very encouraged at the NRF show to see weather data integrated across nearly all IBM’s consumer offerings — from commerce and marketing to supply chain and block chain.

Weather data is now also showing up in SAP and JDA integration’s and the topic of managing consumer weather risk is no longer a curiosity — it’s becoming, dare I say it, mainstream.

See: The Effects of Weather on Corporate Earnings are Gathering Forc

Historically retailers have viewed weather as an uncontrollable and therefore unmanageable risk factor — what Wall Street analysts call the “weather excuse.”

That paradigm is now rapidly being turned on it’s head — rather than a risk, leveraging digital insights mined from weather data is creating opportunities to better serve customers, capture market share and delight shareholders.

It’s how the best retailers and consumer packaged goods companies and quick serve restaurants are, indeed, prospering in uncertain times.

To quote Sun Tzu (because, why not?) —

“Know the enemy, know yourself; your victory will never be endangered. Know the ground, know the weather; your victory will then be total.”

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