Some make hay while the sun shines

editorial image

CHANGES in the weather had a big impact on sales at a flagship Milton Keynes retailer.

John Lewis at thecentre:mk admitted the ‘Indian summer’, which saw people basking in parks and flocking to the seaside at the beginning of October, provided a ‘tough week’.

Sales of knitwear and winter fashions unsurprisingly took a big hit as temperatures soared to a thermometer-busting 28oC.

However, John Lewis was keen to point out that other items were racing off the shelves like the proverbial hot cakes.

Lesley Ballantyne, John Lewis’s director of operational development said: “Clearly, customers were not in the mood to shop for autumnal clothing in fashions and inevitably trade was slower as a result.

“However, premium beauty achieved an increase of seven per cent, a very positive result considering the lower footfall in branches.

“Handbags also recorded an increase of two per cent, proving that for some the appetite for handbag shopping cannot be dulled even in 80 degree heat!”

“Online sales were ahead of last year by 14 per cent but customers seemed to be diverting their attention to outdoor pursuits.”

So they were very strange days indeed.

I overhead an almost distraught customer in a large supermarket told by a member of staff that they had run out of charcoal for their bonus barbecue.

The picture across the country showed food sales growth as clothing purchases slowed sharply.

Overall sales were up but not enough to prevent commentators saying things remain week.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, concludes there was no sign of underlying confidence improving. He said:“Hot weather at the end of September boosted spending on food and drink, but clothing sales slumped as the sun undermined interest in winter ranges.

“As we head into the year’s most important trading period, we need a return of optimism. That requires people to feel that next year they will see some payback for the current pain.”

And Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said: “While we were seeing reasonable growth during the first weeks of September, hopes for a major improvement on recent months were dashed as the exceptionally hot weather kicked in during the final week, when hitting the shops was well down our list of priorities.

“As we are entering the crucial season in the run-up to Christmas the outlook may be described as ‘hopeful’ but that’s as good as it gets, I’m afraid.”

Weather experts at the Met Office say they were spot on with their forecasts, which “allowed businesses and organisations to plan accordingly so the nation could enjoy the warm spell”.

Indeed some companies have used weather forecasts to not only plan what is on their shelves but to drive sales campaigns.

Pirelli designed a campaign to increase awareness of their specialised winter tyres and increase sales. It used information from the Met Office to give customers money back if temperatures rose above the optimum 7oC for a certain amount of time. Sales of the tyres rose.

As we head into winter, leaving the balmy days of early October well behind us, many businesses and councils will be looking at their weather forecasts and planning to get a commercial advantage.

And a weatherman told me on Twitter that there was no sign of snow in the next 30 days. Mind you, that was a while ago!