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winter clothes, photo by Roxane Clediere
Alexandra Biesada

Climate Change Cools Winter Apparel Sales

by Alexandra Biesada | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

April 21, 2016 | No Comments »

It’s official: Scientists have declared 2015 as the Earth’s hottest year on record.

Of 3,116 cities, about 90% were warmer than normal, according to AccuWeather. New York City followed the typical pattern, with an unusually cold February and a strangely warm December, reports The New York Times.

If you’re feeling the heat, imagine how major retailers looking to sell plenty of winter coats, boots, sweaters, and other snug apparel feel.

Many major chains that fell short of expectations for the fourth quarter blamed unseasonably warm winter weather for their poor sales. Add to that increasing competition from discounters and online merchants, and stores like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Gap were left with plenty of unsold inventory in early 2016 that they needed to sell (often at steep markdowns) before spring arrived, reports RetailingToday.

Record high temperatures and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns across the US are forcing retailers to rethink their cold-weather apparel sales strategies. To avoid a repeat of last year, merchants will need to adopt a more strategic approach to driving traffic and sales of outerwear, industry watchers say.

Because consumers traditionally purchase winter wear before the cold weather hits, weather isn’t entirely to blame for disappointing sales, analysts say, citing a failure of planning and promotion on the part of many retailers. “As the 2016-17 selling season approaches, retailers would do well to plan the merchandising and promotion of outerwear categories early in the season, for it would certainly hold at bay the frustrations of October and November 2015,” says Market Track’s Traci Gregorski. Gregorski points to a 14% decline in outerwear promotions over the past 12 months — when they were needed most.

Industry Impact: Global warming is causing retailers to rethink their cold-weather apparel strategies.

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Alexandra Biesada shops every day, whether she wants to or not, and pines for the days when it was strictly a recreational activity. She has covered the retail beat for Hoover’s since 2001. Follow her on Twitter.

Photo by Roxane Clediere, used here under a Creative Commons license.

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