You can usually hear the collective groan from journalists and analysts in the retail sector for miles on results days when a company blames their poor trading on the weather.
It has, until recently, been viewed a bit like suggesting the dog ate your homework when the real issue is your own incompetence.
I have even heard fellow retailers deriding other fashion businesses for playing the weather card, implying that it is a catch-all excuse used by those who lack the strong strategy and business model to play successfully in the current market.
But while it is true that the weather seems an easy excuse when times are tough, there is also no way that retailers could have predicted the extremes of weather that we have seen in the UK over the last three years. As I write it is snowing…snowing…in April.
Sure, buyers can buy more transeasonal product, and merchandisers can be cleverer with their promotional strategy and online push to move stock, but ultimately who in their right mind would have ordered up duffle coats and knee-high boots to their shelves in April?
Its been the coldest March on record, hot on the heels of two of the wettest ‘summers’ on record while 2011 saw the warmest autumn in many many years. Even with the best will in the world that has got to have affected trading for most fashion retailers.
Interestingly those that have done well over that time have done so as a result of the balance of categories in their business (homeware and beauty, for example, are almost weatherproof).
I’d almost find it odd if a company didn’t reference the weather in their results these days – unless of course the dog ate their P&L.