Retail Planning: Name a couple of local retailers that can be impacted by unexpected changes in weather patterns. How does weather affect their sales, and what can they do to prevent such fluctuations?
Two examples of hardest hit local retailers in my neighborhood after we got hit by heavy rain and hail inJune last year were Pat’s Ice Cream Truck and a mom-pop grocery store, Franklin Food Mart. My reason for choosing them was that at the advent of winter, granted we have an early snow, the two businesses suffer again.
As far as Pat’s Ice Cream Truck is concerned, his business and earnings hinge on his being mobile. Of course there is the other factor of the season, but sometimes he faces hard times with weather anomalies.
Meager amounts of rain is enough to scare a substantial portion of people off the streets, which reduces his potential customer base. Besides rain does a good job at pushing the ice cream out of people’s minds.
Then there are other harsh weather conditions, like snow, hail or torrential rain – that literally prevent Pat from operating his truck altogether and losing all of his sales. If the conditions are persistent there is a good chance of him losing his stock for the day as well.
My recommendation for Pat would be to, most importantly plan ahead: the last but the most important of the four orientations for any good retailer. He should reduce his basic stock for the days that are forecasted to be bad. This way he eliminates at least the potential risk that comes from losing his stock. Good planning could tell him against a situation a good couple weeks in advance. That could be his opportunity to drive to a nearby region not as affected by weather.
A very good recommendation for Pat would also be to adjust to changes in his ambience or surroundings. Keeping up with technology would enable a mobile, never to be found retailer to take orders from neighboring places in advance, if possible. This way, even if the weather reneges, his day might be lost, but the profit is not. He would simply fill it another day completing a back order.
Franklin Food Mart is another story though. Unlike Pat’s truck, the Food Mart is a brick and mortar business. It is primarily affected every time it loses supply, as transportation lines get stuck under inclement weather. If groceries do not get delivered, they do not get sold. That is the bigger of the two problems for Franklin.
The other problem stems from the fact that customers are also reluctant to step outside during those times, and if he overstocks, groceries just stay put. Groceries move either before the storm, if we call it that, or after it has passed.
The challenge therefore reduces to meeting the spike in demand when people give in to hoarding. Planning therefore is key, so Franklin is prepared before a rough weather day. Again here, my suggestion to Franklin would be to be a better oriented retailer. Keeping in touch with the changes around it, and getting technology to work in favor, Franklin could ponder over a home delivery service, which makes sure customers are stocked regardless of whether they can drive. The value of the delivery network also lies in the fact that it may be alternately used for picking up supplies for the store too.