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Brands Try to ‘Seize the Freeze’ of Winter Weather

Ad Age

By: Adrianne Pasquarelli


COVID has forced marketers to be more prepared for need-based shopping.

As winter storms continued to dump snow on the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions— and as Texas endured unseasonably frigid temperatures—some retailers saw an opportunity. Many brands incorporated references to the weather in communications with customers and social media feeds. . . .

. . . The severe weather, coupled with the pandemic, is causing consumers to shop only for essentials. “One hundred percent of it is need-based—we’re taking fewer trips to the store, buying online, picking up in store, so the need categories are everything,” says Evan Gold, executive VP of global partnerships and alliances at Planalytics, which measures the impact of weather on business. He notes rising demand in essential categories including hot food and drink, blankets, long underwear, firewood and automotive supplies like windshield wiper fluid.

In Texas, where many consumers unaccustomed to freezing temperatures are without power, demand for blankets was up 70% above normal this week, Planalytics found. Demand for heaters was up 220%. Conversely, categories that are normally experiencing a surge at this time of year, including products for the spring planting season, are in decline. Lawn and garden products saw demand fall 80% below normal, while shorts are down 60% and sports drinks down 40%, according to Planalytics.

Gold says that one silver lining from the pandemic is that many retailers were able to better prepare their supply chain for the unexpected—a retailer in Dallas, for example, might be equipped to fulfill an order for a snow shovel from another region’s warehouse.

“That’s one of the things that sets the winners apart in this scenario—the nimbleness of the supply chain,” he says.

He also notes that COVID-19-related store closures forced many retailers to better align their inventory closer to the season; in previous years, apparel stores would be lining shelves with spring merchandise in February. Now, those retailers who are well stocked with winter accessories will do well.

“They recognized the opportunity to have the goods on the floor that the customer wants when coming in for it,” says Gold. “Those that are doing better not only have it but are advertising that they have it.”

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