The entry at number 24 of the weather in Retail Week’s 2013 Powerlist was not a flippant attempt to add controversy into the annual ranking but a reflection of the increasing influence changing weather patterns are having on the sector.

The entry at number 24 of the weather in Retail Week’s 2013 Powerlist was not a flippant attempt to add controversy into the annual ranking but a reflection of the increasing influence changing weather patterns are having on the sector.

There remains a level of cynicism whenever a retailer seeks to blame the climate for struggling sales.

But glance at some of the retail headlines during this heat wave - sales of fans at B&Q were up 1,627% year on year in the first week of July for example - and you are reminded how significant its impact can be. This week alone Carpetright insisted its first-quarter sales fall was merely a “blip” driven by the heat, while B&Q owner Kingfisher reported a jump in second-quarter like-for-likes as the nation finally rediscovered its gardens.

The weather’s effect on consumers has been debated since shopkeepers first opened their doors. But extreme weather is adding a new layer of risk for store chiefs, whether they are eyeing rising food prices or facing a blurring of traditional seasonal boundaries.

It remains unclear what the long-term effects of this unpredictability will be on retail operations, but there are signs the industry is adapting. Geolocation technologies can now deliver targeted marketing based on the weather, while digital channels offer routes to market when rain or snow keeps consumers at home. A flexible supply chain, however, will be key and Asda’s acquisition last year of a Turkish sourcing arm is one example of a retailer seeking to bring supply closer to home.

Retailers are at their best when they control the detail. And, while even the most influential leaders in the industry cannot hope to manipulate weather patterns, they must consider what they can control and take action.