As the UK continues to swelter in the heat, Retail Week takes a look at the weather’s impact on shoppers and retailers.
The heatwave has brought mixed news for retailers. On the one hand, footfall has suffered on many high streets but on the other, summer clothes and products are flying off the shelves.
Figures from BDO showed footfall last week fell 8% year on year as shoppers made the most of the sun, but that didn’t stop John Lewis selling an air conditioning unit every 50 seconds, while sales of juicers grew 1886% compared to last year. Dixons revealed juicer sales at Currys and PC World stores are up 2,422% year on year, while fans and air coolers are up 340% week on week.
In grocery, convenience has proved king as shoppers flock to local stores for BBQ ingredients.
Sainsbury’s sold enough sausages last week to stretch from London to Alicante, shifting 1.2 million packets. Last week was also its best ever week for BBQs, with BBQ and charcoal sales up 600%. Outdoor toys meanwhile, such as paddling pools and sandpits, were up 175%. And white rum sales rocketed 122% suggesting people were using the spirit to make cocktails.
Waitrose customers are living more of a Mediterranean lifestyle – last week the grocer sold double the amount of halloumi and feta it normally does in a week. It also says people switch from ice cream to ice lollies when the temperature hits 28 degrees.
Thorntons chief executive Jonathan Hart tells Retail Week that the sunshine has changed the emphasis of consumers’ purchases. “Sales of ice cream have been strong and because of our multichannel offer we are not just exposed to high street footfall,” he said.
Fashion retailers are having a good time of it in the sun. Some clothing retailers have delayed the start of their summer Sales, while others have reduced their price cuts from the usual 50% to 20-30%.
Verdict analyst Honor Westnedge says: “In fashion, it can be a mix because consumers are either getting out and shopping or staying away from shopping centres and enjoying the weather in their gardens. But it does really help with getting rid of end of clearance stock because many of them have had a bad late spring and early summer, so it is really about moving stock. Winners will be high end fashion players who buy into the seasons.”
In DIY, B&Q sold 28,000 paddling pools sold last week and similar number of parasols while fan sales are also in treble digits.
Westnedge adds: “Obviously the DIY and gardening retailers will be winners as people are out spending more time in their gardens and having BBQs. But these retailers would much rather have good weather at the beginning of the summer, so that they are not on Sale by the time shoppers want to buy outdoor products. This will mean they are not getting the full price.”
An Argos spokeswoman says the weather has driven rapid sales spikes in certain products. “Over the past week, Argos has seen more than a four fold increase in the sale of water games, including paddling pools compared to the previous week. Over the same period, Argos also saw more than a ten fold sales increase in fans across their range,” she says.
“Over the last week, Argos has also seen a significant uplift on searches on argos.co.uk for water games, including paddling pools.”
Moreover, some supply chains are under severe pressure as shoppers race to grab products like charcoal and summer salad. Some producers say another two weeks of hot weather could see some stocks run low.
So while the pleasant weather offers some opportunities, retailers will have to overcome significant challenges to achieve strong performance.