Did bad weather slow April retail sales?

Jeremy Hobson Jun 3, 2010

Did bad weather slow April retail sales?

Jeremy Hobson Jun 3, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: We learned today April showers most definitely did not lead to May flowers for some retailers. Sales were below expectations at stores from Abercrombie & Fitch to JC Penney.

A lot of the analyst chatter when the figures came out this morning blamed the weather. That’s something you often hear from businesses when things don’t go as well as they hoped. Usually, though, there’s at least a snowstorm or something big they can point to.

Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson looks into today’s blame game.

Jeremy Hobson: Analysts say heavy rain in the Pacific Northwest and cool temperatures everywhere but the northeast, led to lackluster sales in May.

I asked Jim Ramsey, a meteorologist at WGN in Chicago, how the weather’s been there.

Jim Ramsey: The El Nino pattern has been largely responsible by most estimates for providing us with just a delightful spring.

Hmm… A delightful spring, you say?

Ramsey: Here in the upper Midwest, we’ve had three consecutive years with more than 50 inches of snow. It takes a little more than a cool-down to cause people to not go shopping.

But some retail analysts say that’s not the case in an economic slump. Burt Flickinger is managing director of the consumer consulting firm Strategic Resource Group.

Burt Flickinger: The cooler weather does have an effect, because consumer confidence is 50 percent of where it was two years ago, so consumers are constantly looking to postpone purchases.

For instance, he says, consumers might put off buying summer clothes until June. That’s no good for the stores because they need cash to buy fall merchandise now. But don’t retailers plan for the weather like the rest of us?

I asked Frank Badillo, a senior economist at Kantar Retail.

Frank Badillo: Too often it is a handy excuse for what goes on in any given month. And as an economist when I look at the numbers, I typically find that there are other reasons that far outweigh weather.

Like big declines in the stock market last month, he says. Or, you know, the recession. Then again, it’s probably easier to just…

Milli Vanilli, singing: Blame it on the rain!

Even if doing so is about as believable as Milli Vanilli singing their own songs.

In New York, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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