Cold snap could heat up retail sales

Retail experts say start-ups can mimic Myer and David Jones by offering season-specific sales, after both department stores said they’re relying on winter as a platform to pick up sales.


After reporting falls in third quarter sales, both retailers are pinning their hopes on momentum from better than expected Easter sales accelerating into winter.


Bernie Brookes and Paul Zahra, the respective CEOs of Myer and David Jones, say April delivered a slight improvement in store traffic sales due to a cold snap across the eastern states, which triggered a rush for women’s winter clothing, menswear, bedding and cosmetics.


The retailers have welcomed the quick change into cold weather after a slower than expected summer that decimated turnover.


Both Myer and David Jones are renowned for introducing new stock well in advance of the relevant season, but Brookes says the weather is now matching what is in store.


“Winter is a tough season because, if you don’t have the weather on your side when you are trying to sell full-length coats, scarves, gloves, hats – that type of merchandise is discretionary and only lends itself to colder weather, such as we are seeing today,” Brookes said.


Lisa Tartaglia, research consultant at the Australian Centre for Retail Studies, says in addition to stocking up on winter clothing, the colder weather is forcing people indoors, which is good news for retailers.


“People might tend to go shopping because of the weather, so that could have an impact [on sales] because consumers can’t do all the other things they generally do in the summer,” Tartaglia says.


She says certain retailers will also benefit from the crispy climate, particularly those selling hot items like coffee and soup.


“If you’re looking at store openings, you might not see juice bars or ice cream places opening,” Tartaglia says.


Brian Walker, managing director of The Retail Doctor, says it’s important for retailers to prepare in advance for the various seasons in order to tailor their offerings.


“A good retailer will be keeping a record of climate, weather, trends and holiday days, and they will create a database so they can go back and look at it,” Walker says.


“Having run a business, every day we’d make a notation of what the weather was for that very reason.”


“The ones who leave it purely to chance often are the ones who get caught out. It is, for the smaller guys, about doing it more quickly than the bigger guys can.”


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