Retail sales hit by a washout April
As May looks to deliver more of the same – can anything be done?
The British Retail Consortium today announced the latest figures (April results)
for retail performance through April , and after a buoyant March, the figures are a disappointment.
The year on year comparison to April 2011 was always going to be a challenge, as last years warm weather, Royal Wedding and later Easter delivered an almost ideal month for consumer spending. Extra days off for shopping and work around the home, a party atmosphere and good weather for Easter and the wedding. All good reasons to buy spring and summer fashions and crack on with
DIY projects. This year delivered almost the opposite with persistent wet weather on the back of a very warm and dry March, an earlier Easter and the faltering economy delaying large ticket home purchases. Like for like sales were down 3.3%, and the biggest losers were the clothing and shoe retailers, with food sales feeling the pinch as well. Although March produced good results for these sectors, the two months combined show sales lagging last years totals, with online sales also slowing to 9% growth last month.
So as we are a third of the way through May, and the weather looking like a repeat of the miserable April, is there anything that can be done? For food retailers, the answer is reasonably simple, the winter staples of hearty roasts, soups, hot cereals need to be balanced with opportunistic barbecue weather. The merest hint of a dry day over the weekend will change habits quickly, beer and white wine will move, barbecue meats and salads will have a quick surge in sales. The trick is regionalising the forecasts, getting the most relevant local data available and using it to your advantage, losing sales is one thing, overstocking and disposing of perished goods is even worse. So know your customers preferences, map previous similar weather periods against sales performance and use this to take some of the guesswork out of stock planning.
Clothing and DIY stores have a more challenging in store dynamic to manage, in particular the fashion retailers where the push is now very much toward summer fashion. A move to promoting the online sales of more autumnal fashions combined with the traditional in store ‘feel good’ summer lay out will help cover both bases, but in reality it is a sector that needs the weather to
mainly deliver seasonal norms. DIY can be a little more dynamic in its approach with front of store promotions reflecting the forecast weather. There is little point pushing garden furniture to a rain soaked customer base, but indoor painting jobs, soft furnishings and general brightening up of the interior will be at the front of frustrated shoppers minds while they can’t get outside as they normally would at this time of year.
It’s not a miracle cure for the lack of disposable income, or a guaranteed turnaround in fortunes, but intelligent use of short term detailed forecasts in combination with longer term expected weather trends can be a vital tool in keeping shoppers coming through the door and ensuring that your share of their spend is maximised.
9th May 2012 12:47 Updated: 9th May 2012 12:47