What Another Round Of Warm Weather Means For Holiday Retail

Shopping mall.
A shopping mall.
Getty Images.

What do you do when something you can’t control is affecting your livelihood?

That’s the question retailers find themselves grappling with as they prepare to head into another unseasonably warm weekend.

Temperatures in some parts of the Northeast are expected to hover around the low to mid-60s this weekend, leaving retailers — who had already found themselves overstocked with cold-weather product — frustrated.

“We’re becoming a very weather-dependent business,” Danny Wasserman, owner and president of New York-based footwear retailer Tip Top Shoes, told Footwear News in late November. “We’re banking on the weather — if we can get cold weather and snow, then we’ll be OK.”

Retailers have been struggling to push fur-lined boots and footwear with water-resistant and weatherproof features since late September, yet have found themselves increasingly relying on sales of short booties and more transitional styles to sustain profits.

“Short boots have been doing really well for us, but tall boots … not so much,” said Jan Mauldin, senior director of corporate marketing at Rack Room Shoes. “Athletic styles continue to perform really well — sales for [styles by] Nike, Skechers, Vans and Converse continue to be strong.”

Overall, athletic footwear continues to outperform the rest of the shoe industry.

Citi Research analyst Kate McShane noted on Wednesday that total U.S. athletic footwear point-of-sales advanced 15.7 percent year-over-year for the week ended on Dec. 5 — evidence of ongoing strength in the space.

Heading into Thanksgiving and the holidays, retailers had ramped up sales and promotions in hopes of exiting the season clean of excess inventories.

While there have been a few short bursts of cold weather, a lack of “sustainable cold weather,” cautioned Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen, means heavy discounting is likely to continue.

“We expect elevated inventories and deeper markdowns to continue into 1Q16,” Chen wrote on Dec. 9.

Retailers looking to tap into positive spring weather trends next year could end up seeing little benefit, Chen noted.

“Though [Weather Trends International] predicts a warm bump in late February — ordinarily a positive driver for spring apparel sales —this year, excess cold-weather inventory filling store floors may prevent retailers from taking advantage of it,” Chen said.

Conversely, temperatures on the West are trending colder for this time of year, which analysts say could help apparel sales in that part of the country.