Climate Change Begins to Impact Global Retail Markets

The UK High Street is just getting over a sales slump caused by Europe’s extended winter. Now Australian retailers are seeing first hand how much difference a bout of unseasonable weather makes.

Earlier this week, David Jones announced its lacklustre Q3 results, with Managing Director Paul Zahra indicating that unseasonably warm weather throughout autumn has had a significantly negative impact. As it turns out, the issue goes further than one brand.

The extended warm weather throughout the country has had a similar effect as the recent slump in UK fashion and apparel sales due to Europe’s protracted winter, putting consumers off purchasing new season clothing until the weather turns. Locally, it may even be having a marked impact on heating appliance sales.

Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association, told SmartCompany that he was aware of several businesses that had been affected by our warm autumn period.

“It’s most definitely slowed down sales on fashion goods, but more than that. It’s affected household goods sales and other markets…they’re just not selling,” he said.

While it appears that the cold has now arrived, Zimmerman indicated that this may be too late for many retailers that are already holding excess stock.

“I was walking down a street in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago and there was a sign saying ‘40% off trenchcoats’. I’m seeing this everywhere – they just haven’t sold.”

Regardless of whether you subscribe to ideas about human-induced climate change, these unexpected alterations in global weather patterns are becoming more of a concern for everybody, including retailers. Of course, there are still plenty of categories that aren’t traditionally considered ‘seasonal’, but even sales of these can be sensitive to changes in weather, which has been shown to have a significant impact on consumer behaviour overall.

Will inventory forecasting continue to be useful for businesses when major climate conditions can’t be reliable predicted? Will fashion brands continue to support seasonal ranges if the seasons themselves continue to change?

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