According to the British Retail Consortium, after the national economy, the weather, particularly the change in seasons, has the biggest influence on consumer spending. It not only affects an individual’s emotional state, but also drives their purchase decisions.
Changes in the weather were found to even influence the amount that consumers were willing to spend. Studies have shown a correlation between weather patterns and consumer purchase behavior on three levels:
For those who shop in brick and mortar stores, it is easy to understand why a dry, sunny day would increase foot traffic and revenue. Or that a period of inclement weather would spike online sales. One study found that wet or cold weather increased online sales by up to 12% with most of the spend going for home goods, furniture and clothing.
It is also important to understand that buyers generally fall into two categories, recreational and those shopping for necessities. The spending habits for both will be influenced by seasonal changes. Studies have also shown that exposure to sunlight will increase the number of impulse purchases. As a result, many retailers use bright halogen or LED lighting in their stores to mimic sunlight and influence consumer spending.
Supermarket and department store chains are particularly aware of consumer spending habits as influenced by weather changes. The first warm days will trigger sales for sodas, juices and seasonal items such as outdoor furniture. Conversely, a premature cold snap will spike sales of soup, hot cereals and lip balm.
Restaurant owners must adapt to these changing tastes as well. Creating seasonal specials brings variety to the menu without doing a complete overhaul every time the weather fluctuates. These unique items can also draw in new customers with the allure of novelty or nostalgia. The quintessential peppermint and gingerbread flavors of Christmas and the pumpkin spice of fall promise comfort. Crisp salads with local vegetables and soft-serve ice cream dipped in fudge entice taste buds eager for a refreshing break from summer’s heat.
Adjusting marketing messages to reflect changing tastes, attitudes and buying habits keeps campaigns fresh. They also have a higher potential to engage more customers than putting out the same messages year round. Use familiar imagery to invoke the best of each season:
Work these images into your print and digital marketing campaigns to get customers excited about the changing weather while highlighting appropriate seasonal items.
Retailers also do brisk business during the last quarter of the year as there are more events and holidays. In other seasons, they must depend on promotions and sales and clever merchandising to generate interest, foot traffic and revenue. The first quarter of the year, retailers may post losses after the holiday season, due to cold weather throughout much of the country. Businesses who benefit from Valentine’s Day gift giving will fare well, but most retailers rely on promotional sales until the warmer weather arrives, and with it promotional opportunities for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day.
While actual weather patterns can influence consumer spending, many companies undergo periods where business is more plentiful than at other times of the year. For example, in the Northeast during the warmer weather, many construction businesses that excavate, pour foundations, build structures, roofers, masons, paving and other contractors are busy. During the winter months, construction projects are limited to interior finishing and renovation work. This ‘slow season’ not only impacts the revenue that this industry generates, but also affects the spending habits of its workers and their families.
Geographic areas with a high percentage of consumers whose heads of households work in the construction trades and other seasonal businesses, must be aware of this. They will need to position their marketing and promotions to respond to the times of the year when their business revenues will be impacted by their demographics’ seasonal profit fluctuations. Being aware of consumer demographics, and seasonal business upticks and downturns helps retailers and other ecommerce businesses establish patterns and to implement successful marketing campaigns.
Be aware of your clients’ spending habits. Know when they are likely to spend and when they cannot. Learn how to address these revenue peaks and valleys. As these may impact your business’ cash flow, speak with your financing advisor for guidance on how to position your business so it can weather seasonal fluctuations well.
Regardless of the weather, consumer spending has been strong in the U.S. in the recent past. A slower-than-expected holiday retail season led some to speculate overall spending was on the decline. But performance in the first quarter of 2019 suggests consumers are just as eager as ever to shop at their favorite stores and online.
A drop in department store purchases didn’t stop retail sales from hitting $6 trillion in 2018 or achieving a 3.6 percent year-over-year increase in May of 2019. Growth appears to be largely bolstered by online and restaurant sales, which may be due in part to an increase in disposable income following a period characterized by thrifty spending during the recession. For brick-and-mortar retailers, the shift toward online shopping could signal another kind of “season” – one in which adopting an e-commerce strategy may be essential in order to remain competitive in the changing retail landscape.
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