Thanks to the "blowtorch" effect, the weather across much of the US has been unseasonably mild, meaning many consumers are sitting on their wallets when it comes to apparel for frigid temps, Ad Age reports. That put a solid dent in November retail sales to the tune of $185 million, per Planalytics, a firm that analyzes weather stats for businesses. For the week of Dec. 12, for example, Women's Wear Daily reports that outerwear sales dropped more than 30% in big markets such as Boston, New York, and Chicago, Quartz notes. And not even Fashion Santa may be able to spur future purchases of flannel and fleece, as Planalytics predicts temps may be 4% higher for December overall, per Ad Age. Although that may not seem significant, it is in the world of weather-influenced retail sales: Per Weather Trends, for every degree that the weather rises, there could be a corresponding 3% to 5% drop in retail sales, BuzzFeed notes.
Consumers don't necessarily use cash saved on heating for more discretionary purchases. "Households are spending more on services" such as health care and phone plans, whose costs have risen this year, the chief economist for the National Retail Federation tells Ad Age. A weather strategist tells the magazine if the mercury drops before Christmas, as it's expected to, that could set off a "seasonal spending spree" that may prove to be a respite for retailers. But that could come too late, especially if retailers have to resort to steep discounts to whittle down their inventory. And retailers' loss would be consumers' gain. "The after-Christmas sales are going to be ginormous," the CEO of Weather Trends tells BuzzFeed. "If you saw 50% off sales last year after Christmas, you might expect 75% off … It will be exponentially better because there's so much inventory to clear."