Seasonal temperatures throughout most of the country over the next month will affect how, when and what consumers shop and buy for the holidays particularly in light of the recent economic crisis, according to speakers at the 10th annual Holiday Shopping Outlook Webcast by Planalytics Inc.

This story first appeared in the November 7, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Consumers aren’t buying close to need — they’re buying at need. So weather matters now more than ever,” asserted Scott Bernhardt, chief operating officer of Planalytics, which provides weather strategies for retailers, manufacturers, energy suppliers and other industries.

And despite projected major weather events in November and December, retailers that prepare and plan inventory and staffing in advance of them still face opportunities, they declared.

Due to wetter conditions, weather-driven demand for products like rainwear and automotive wipers is expected to rise 5 percent in the 2008 holiday shopping period, demand for portable heaters by 3 percent, fire log demand by 2 percent and demand for boots and seasonal footwear by 1 percent, while retail traffic overall should be up slightly, Planalytics projected.

This year there should be fewer traffic-limiting weather events across most of North America, with less snowfall than last year, Planalytics added.

The November weather trends will be in contrast to those seen in October, which was the fifth coolest in 15 years, helping drive a strong year-over-year increase in seasonal demand, reported David Frieberg, Planalytics Inc. marketing director, in an interview.

With a national mean temperature of 57.5 degrees, October was the 20th coolest since 1961 and fifth coolest since 1993. The month began with the coolest temperatures of the season in the East, with temperatures in the 30s, 40s, and 50s helping spur early cool-weather purchases, he noted.

While the month ended with near record temperature highs in the West, some other regions had below-freezing temperatures, boosting early season buys of winter apparel, he added.

“This was a good October to be California dreaming,” Bernhardt added.

Shopping should be aided by the fact that in November, the nation shouldn’t endure sustained cold, but see seasonal temperatures in the “consuming East,” Bernhardt said. “We’re not looking for balmy temperatures in New York by any means, but there are going to be some warm patches that are going to carry the month toward the warmer side.”

In November, shoppers should enjoy “an awful lot of seasonal temperatures in a lot of the consuming markets,” added Bernhardt.

“The good news is the traffic-limiting events that happened last year will be significantly less likely in a lot of the major consuming markets, so even though we have less shopping days [till the holidays] we may have more opportunities for people to get to the stores.”

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