FORECASTERS PREDICT A WARM CHRISTMAS

Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — The weather feels good, and it’s killing retailers. Now forecasters are saying learn to live with it.
“There is really no end in sight for this weather-driven softness,” predicted Paul Walsh, vice president and retail business meteorologist, Planalytics, which on Wednesday delivered a depressing December outlook for most of the country.
Planalytics, based in Wayne, Pa., forecasts how the weather will impact business, 12 months in advance. It supplies the retailing, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, consumer products and energy industries with that data.
“For the Eastern half of the U.S, it will be much less favorable for cold-weather goods as compared with last year,” from now until Christmas, Walsh said. “It will cool off, but will stay warmer than last year.” There’ll be less motivation to buy coats, as has recently been the case from Chicago eastward, he said.
He said that despite the economic slowdown, retailers earlier this season were selling some outerwear, particularly jackets and sweatshirts. But around the second week of November, “the bottom dropped out.”
“There is a very short runway for sales this holiday season. It’s the cold weather that drives people into the stores. Christmas will come, shoppers will come and store-traffic opportunities are there, but the conversions [from browsing to actual purchasing] are very difficult. Those shifting away from heavier apparel to electronics are best positioned. “There is no real cold weather in sight, except for the Dakotas. The major markets will be much warmer than normal.”
Some parts of the country have been up 40 degrees or warmer than a year ago, such as Philadelphia, which has recently had 70-plus degree weather, against 35 degrees for the same days last year.
Los Angeles and north to Portland, Ore., according to Planalytics, should be more favorable for cold-weather sales moving forward.

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