Back at the beginning of winter 2015, I wrote a blog saying that retailers should not blame the weather for poor performance; today, I will explore this subject a little more. It caught my attention again because a number of recent market updates, such as our very own IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index in April, have referred to the influence of the weather this season.
The eRetail Sales Index makes for interesting reading, with strong growth in some non-weather reliant clothing categories such as lingerie. However, the tone of the majority of the news from the high street has been about the continued impact of the weather on clothing in general, with Retail Week highlighting that ‘fashion retailers suffer 6.3% slump in sales as weather dents performance’.
I said in my blog last time that there are four things non-food retailers could consider to protect their business from the seasonal risks associated with weather: diversification, in-season trading, trading between markets/channels, and pricing/promotion. As a rebuff to the negative headlines, I would like to point to some examples of where retailers have reported the opposite in the last few of months – and highlight what’s possible when one of those tactics is implemented.
For instance, Mountain Warehouse said they experienced a like-for-like sales performance of +19% for the year, with their CEO Mark Neale citing the ‘weather-proofing’ of their business as key to the success. What he highlights here is their attempts to diversify their product range, and make sure that within their outdoor clothing and accessories categories, they are offering their customers a wider range of relevant products which aren’t so reliant on the seasons.
An example of them actively delivering ‘diversification’ would be the launch of their yoga & pilates range. Cleverly, this kind of offer allows them to remain true to the brand, and is not a massive leap for customers from the traditional outdoor wear offer.
Another good example comes from the Debenhams, which after years of mixed performance seems to be turning a corner. And they’re doing it on the back of a reduced reliance on ‘weather-sensitive’ clothing. Its outgoing CEO Michael Sharp pointed to strong performance in non-clothing categories such as beauty, home & accessories, while the new chairman Sir Ian Cheshire referenced his preference on his appointment back in January for ‘pushing gifting and beauty rather than relying on the volatile clothing category’.
Both of these recent examples demonstrate the proactive implementation of the ‘diversification’ tactic I identified in my previous blog to help mitigate the impact of seasonal dependency on their performance. Let’s hope more and more non-food retailers continue to identify the opportunities that are relevant and applicable to them as we move through 2016 and past our damp spring into more positive, profitable seasons to come.