How Does Weather Affect Shopping?

By milo on May 20, 2010 | 2 Comments

Consumer behavior can be swayed by a variety of factors, not the least of which is the weather. It may not seem as crucial as your next big marketing idea, but it is still pretty important to understand the various ways that patterns and changes in the forecast can affect buying. Research has shown that weather, and the conditions related to it, can be responsible for changes in product demand, the timing of the purchase and a shopper’s willingness to shop. Today, Milo explores the various ways that weather can affect shopping.

Getting Hot, Hot, Hot

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Summer is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the sun-soaked great outdoors. Whether laying out by the pool and catching some rays or hiking the trails at a local park, there can be no doubt that summer is a season that most people enjoy actively. Knowing this, many might imagine that fewer people have the time or desire to mob up the malls and do a whole lot of recreational shopping. Research on the relationship between sunlight and consumer behavior, however, proves just the opposite to be true. In three separate studies performed by Kyle B. Murray, et al., human exposure to warm summer weather and sunlight reduced negative moods and correlated positively with increased consumer activity. The studies, which collected sales data from local shops and compared them to the weather reports for the days in question, showed higher sales on sunny days than non-sunny days.

Another interesting find from the Murray study was that sunshine correlated with increased retail activity particularly when the outdoor temperature was low. This data seems to indicate that sunshine on cold days increases positive moods and decreases negative emotions, resulting in an increased willingness to buy. Or perhaps it’s that sunny days make us think of updating our wardrobe and getting ready for the coming summer months, all of which drives us back indoors into air-conditioned stores.

Brrr… It’s Cold in Here

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Winter months, especially in the northern regions of the country, are marked by snowy roads, icy driveways and overall uncomfortable outdoor conditions. But don’t let the unpleasant weather fool you into believing that people stay inside and avoid shopping. In fact, just the opposite seems to be true. A poll conducted by the Yakima Herald, a Washington state newspaper, reveals that, even in an area of the country that receives a great deal of snow, shopping is not nearly as affected by frigid temperatures as many might expect. Out of those polled by the paper, 36% responded that they “stay home as much as possible to avoid driving.” However, that’s compared to the 47% majority who claim that “nothing has changed” in their behavior inside or outside of the home. The poll also revealed that a small number of people, or about four percent, go out shopping “just to get out of the house.” Indeed, the winter months do have a nasty habit of keeping us cooped up, and shopping is a perfectly acceptable cure for cabin fever.

Seasonal Changes

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Predictable seasonality is planned for and expected by consumers. It is widely known that it will be hotter in the summer, colder in the winter, rainy in early spring, and dry and brisk in the fall. These changes are consistent, annual and accepted by all who live throughout the various geographical areas of the country. In anticipation of these seasonal changes, consumers spend in fairly predictable ways, buying warmer clothing, jackets, hats, and gloves in late fall/early winter, and hitting the stores for shorts, t-shirts, swim trunks ,and sandals in the spring. Air conditioners see a large spike in sales in late spring/early summer, as people start to experience some of the season’s hotter weather, just as space heaters experience a peak in late fall that extends throughout the winter.

Weather Changes and Purchase Timing

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While there is a certain predictability to shopping, sudden changes in weather can produce rapid changes in purchase timing. A white paper produced by the search marketing company Greenlight examined this phenomenon as it relates to Internet shopping and found an interesting correlation between unseasonal weather changes and consumer behavior. Their research shows that shoppers will suddenly decide to purchase things that they would have otherwise waited for due to sudden changes in the weather. As an example, some people will buy summer clothing on the first warm day of the year, even if it’s a long way to summer and far before they had planned on buying their new outfit. Similarly, Greenlight found that a very early snowstorm might spark an increase in Christmas shopping, as people suddenly get into the spirit of the holiday even if pumpkins were carved just a few days prior.

Weather and Changes in Consumption

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The Greenlight white paper also sheds light on another interesting consumer phenomenon during sudden and unexpected weather changes. “Substitution,” as they call it, occurs when changes in weather result in changes in consumption. For instance, during  unusually heavy periods of rain and snow, consumption of movies and books often rises, as these are  products and activities that can be enjoyed inside,  away from harsh weather conditions. During these same weather conditions, restaurants and bars often see a slump in sales, as consumers must leave their homes and go out to enjoy such services. On the other hand, Greenlight reports that  reverse changes in weather might result in consumers buying in local stores rather than online. A heatwave, for example, might cause shoppers to want their new grill immediately for a barbecue, making them unwilling to wait for delivery from an online retailer. And, of course, a new summer outfit to go with the occasion is an imperative for the first warm day of the year.

Comments

One Comment on “How Does Weather Affect Shopping?”
  1. I only shop when it rains. It seems like there’s less competition.

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  1. [...] Consumer behavior can be swayed by a variety of factors, not the least of which is the weather. It may not seem as crucial as your next big marketing idea, but it is still pretty important to understand the various ways that patterns and changes in the forecast can affect buying. Read ahead [...]



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