Forecast Business No Fair Weather Friend
11.06.2007
WT LogoUnseasonable weather can be a natural disaster for retailers.

This fall, unusually warm temperatures have been the cursed culprit for poor sales nationwide as retailers sit on excess fall inventory, further crippling an already grim economic outlook heading into the holiday shopping season. After all, when October averaged highs of 72 degrees in Benton and Washington counties, consumers are more likely to buy grill accessories and sunscreen than fleece jackets and chicken soup.

And while short-term off weather can simply shift or delay demand, experts say prolonged abnormal weather can create real problems for business, and the economy.

Retailers say weather is the most important variable in their business — and the biggest source of headaches when it acts up. But a new breed of forecasters may be changing the grin-and-bear-it relationship retailers have with the weather.

Long-range commercial weather guidance has become big business. Companies are increasingly turning to forecast providers to help them plan their inventories, a year in advance, for everything from catastrophic events to a single degree temperature change.

Bethlehem, Pa.-based Weather Trends International is a relatively new forecast business blazing the trail. The company, which has an office in Bentonville, specializes in weather guidance for retailers, helping them predict shopping behavior by correlating it to even the smallest changes in weather. The information helps a retailer plan its inventories, marketing and replenishment accordingly, and trickles down to a supplier timing the manufacture of a product.

Unseasonable weather can be a natural disaster for retailers.

This fall, unusually warm temperatures have been the cursed culprit for poor sales nationwide as retailers sit on excess fall inventory, further crippling an already grim economic outlook heading into the holiday shopping season. After all, when October averaged highs of 72 degrees in Benton and Washington counties, consumers are more likely to buy grill accessories and sunscreen than fleece jackets and chicken soup.

And while short-term off weather can simply shift or delay demand, experts say prolonged abnormal weather can create real problems for business, and the economy.

Retailers say weather is the most important variable in their business — and the biggest source of headaches when it acts up. But a new breed of forecasters may be changing the grin-and-bear-it relationship retailers have with the weather.

Long-range commercial weather guidance has become big business. Companies are increasingly turning to forecast providers to help them plan their inventories, a year in advance, for everything from catastrophic events to a single degree temperature change.

Bethlehem, Pa.-based Weather Trends International is a relatively new forecast business blazing the trail. The company, which has an office in Bentonville, specializes in weather guidance for retailers, helping them predict shopping behavior by correlating it to even the smallest changes in weather. The information helps a retailer plan its inventories, marketing and replenishment accordingly, and trickles down to a supplier timing the manufacture of a product.

www.nwaonline.net/articles/2007/11/06/business/110707weather.txt