Extreme Heat Takes Toll On Back-To-School Shopping In Mid-August

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After several weeks of improving trends, experts say they believe that previously desired warm temperatures are partly to blame for a new round of dismal retail numbers.

Retail traffic during the second week of August slipped nearly 8 percent, missing analysts’ projections and decelerating significantly from trends in previous weeks. Total U.S. retail same-store traffic was also down 7.66 percent during the week. Meanwhile, year to date, total U.S. retail visits are down 3.91 percent, according to Citi Research analyst Kate McShane.

Cowen and Co. analyst John Kernan said a heat wave coupled with a tax-holiday shift in Florida likely delayed back-to-school shopping during the second week of August.

While many had predicted that warmer temperatures would send shoppers to stores and malls in droves this month, the pendulum may have swung too far in that direction with smoldering heat actually keeping shoppers at bay.

And, warmer weather patterns are expected to persist for at least another week in some parts of the country, according to Kernan.

Warmer temperatures year-over-year are forecast to continue in the Eastern and Central U.S. for [the third] week [of August], which may limit early back-to-school apparel sales, but cooler weather in the South could attract shoppers to the mall,” Kernan wrote on Monday.

McShane estimates traffic will be down between 3 percent and 5 percent in the third week of August while Kernan expects traffic to dip somewhere between 2 percent and 4 percent.

Total retail traffic in July traffic had declined 2.4 percent year-over-year, better than June’s 3.3 percent slip, May’s 6.4 percent drop and April’s 4.6 percent decrease.