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COMMENT: Being weather smart pays off in retail

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For every drop of rain, for every breath of wind, for every flake of snow, for every ray of sunshine, for every rise and fall in the mercury – there is a commensurate rise and fall in the demand or the supply of approximately 85 per cent of the goods and services within the retail industry.

So, hands up, then: is the business that you work for weather sensitive, even to a small degree? If the answer is yes, let me make one thing clear: weather impact is the second most important factor in the retail world, a single step behind the economy. 

However, it would be fair to say that the economy is sometimes a step behind weather impact and indeed they can be so entwined it can be difficult to tell them apart. Freezing cold winters for example such as the 2010/11 Euro freeze knocked big percentage points of retail sales and the same applied in the US in 2013/14.

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Never underestimate what the weather in all its forms can do – for the good, the bad and the downright ugly. The more extreme the weather, the more extreme the impact. You see we are all animals of the plains, hunters and gatherers alike; we react with our natural instincts to firstly survive and then to be comfortable. The next time you see an imminent hurricane watch as the masses gather to buy bottled water, canned food, torches, blankets and the like. And the next time you see a rainy weekend in the middle of summer watch again as the masses hit the cinemas and theatres. That can also happen several days into a heat-wave (air conditioning providing a welcome relief). 

Knowing your weather sensitivity is one thing but acting upon it is something else, of course. We can all play amateur weather gurus and check out the latest on our smart phones. Indeed, why not? It’s part of the armoury you should be using. But there are other courses of action that if you really want to make hay while the sun shines (or not) then here's a simple five point smart plan:

1. Measure the weather

Yes, every damn drop of rain and every damn degree of temperature, at every location you operate in. Then compare and contrast your figures against anything and everything that moves. Also, watch as absenteeism in the work place ebbs and flows in differing weathers.

2. Diversify

Selling ice cream in winter can be tough, selling hot chocolate may be easier – get my drift? If the weather/season is against your product or service, modify or change it.

3. Capture the moment

Know what’s coming and when. Anticipate, prepare and then act. Be the first off the blocks, don’t be a Johnny-come-lately.

4. Think future

Global warming and subsequent climate change isn’t just happening. It has happened. We have lost the war. The impacts will become more and more profound. Think out-of-the-box, plan for a somewhat different world, with different shapes and colours.

5. Utlise meteoroligists

You wouldn’t attempt to wash your office windows would you… would you? So, put the weather in the hands of experts. Ensure they are clued up on your business. Continue to watch the weather and always be weather smart.

Jim N R Dale is the founder and senior risk meteoroligst of British Weather Services

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Published on Monday 10 October by Jim N R Dale, Senior Risk Meteorologist, British Weather Services

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