December 31st, 2014 in Fall, Retail, Spring, Summer, Video, Winter

What We Predicted and What Happened. Forecast Factor 2014 in Review


We officially launched the Forecast Factor blog (read: The Story Behind Forecast Factor) in July of 2014, but our forecasts of the impact of weather on consumers (featuring proprietary predictions from The Weather Channel’s Business and Weather Expert Paul Walsh) and, most importantly, tactical and strategic advice for marketers began during the run up to the 2013 Christmas holiday season.

As we’ve completed a full year of predictions and weather strategy insights for marketers, we thought we’d put together a recap of our weather impact forecasts along with a review of what actually happened.

Holiday 2013 What We Said:“It’s Freezing Out There!”

FF_freezeSpecifically we were calling for a holiday season that would favor seasonal apparel and be at greater risk from winter storms due to our expectation of a much colder holiday (and winter) than the prior year.

You can see our original outlook here and watch Paul Walsh being interviewed by The Weather Channel’s Jen Carfagno here.

Holiday 2013 What Happened: It Was Freezing Out There!

2013 Holiday predictions were correct and it was freezing out there! The colder termperatures contributed to a dramatic shift in consumer demand.

According to the National Retail Federation total holiday sales increased 3.8% which was in line with expectations – however, the distribution of sales was effected by the influence of the very cold and snowy season.

Note how sales skewed towards (winter) apparel and away from “non-seasonal” products.

  • Clothing and clothing accessories stores’ sales increased 1.8 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 4.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores’ sales decreased 2.5 percent seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 1.5 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

You can read the entire NRF recap here.

Spring 2014 What We Said:60 is the New 80

As early as January we were calling for a strong consumer spending rebound in spring 2014 on the heels of what was setting up to be what became known as the “Polar Vortex” winter.

In an interview in Barron’s Magazine (conducted in January and published in early February) here’s how Paul Walsh described our expectation for the start of the 2014 spring season.

“What’s in store for retailers as we emerge from the cold?”
Paul Walsh:
“When weather breaks—and I’m confident that will be sometime in March—demand is going to be stronger than you would expect because of cabin fever.”

You can watch Paul’s prediction from early March on this short video.


Spring 2014 What Happened: Cabin-Fever Impact

green_shoots_beginning_in_marchThe weather broke nationally by the end of March unleashing the cabin-fever impact we’d predicted. This resulted in a tremendous positive economic snapback which, as it turned out, was the beginning of a very strong year overall.

Summer 2014 What We Said:For Marketers, a (Summer-time) Polar Vortex is a Terrible Thing to Waste

We expected that the lingering polar vortex would have the “polar opposite” effect on consumers as refreshingly cool temperatures contributed to stronger sales and more outdoor activity.

Here’s how Paul Walsh described the phenomena with The Weather Channel’s Dave Schwartz:

Summer 2014 What Happened: Summer Fun for Retailers – August Sales Zoom Upward by 4.5%

Despite what seemed to be a counter intuitive environment for summer demand (due to the cool weather) sales over the summer were generally stronger than expected.

Thompson Reuters gives a good rundown of what happened.

Holiday 2014 What We Said: Milder Weather Means More Spending

In our post on October 16, 2014 we were pretty unambiguous (Paul Walsh gave a 100% guarantee) in our expectation of a holiday season that was going to be milder and less severe and, as a result, there would be a dramatic impact on consumer sentiment and spending.

You can download our full holiday outlook report (and view the recording) from our November webinar here.

Plus, check out some examples of Paul Walsh discussing our predictions:

The Weather Channel Wake Up With Al with Stephanie Abrams:

CNBC Squawk Box with Becky Quick:


Holiday 2014 What Happened: A Remarkable December Thaw

Following a very cold November the weather completely reversed and we experienced a remarkable December thaw.

November Temperature Compared to Normal (Source: HPRCC):


December Temperature Compared to Normal (Source: HPRCC):


Change_in_national_outerwear_demandAs a result, we experienced shopping conditions that were, as expected, milder and “much less polar vortexy” than 2013. This contributed to what will likely be the strongest holiday shopping season in several years.

From a demand perspective (and as we’d expected) consumer spending patterns shifted away from cold weather related items (apparel and footwear particularly) and towards more non-seasonal (electronics, etc) gifts.

In Conclusion:

The Weather Channel’s Forecast Factor is created to help you make smarter marketing and advertising decisions with the weather in mind.

In 2015, we plan to continue this coverage and expand on the resources and research that we provide. With more reports, more webinars, and more expert advice from our weather and marketing strategists. Be sure you’re subscribed to our updates and don’t miss out on any of it.


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