Weekend Snowstorm Unlikely to Have Hurt Holiday Sales

Published December 16, 2013

| Reuters

The snowstorm that hit the U.S. Northeast and Midwest this past weekend is unlikely to hurt overall holiday sales, analysts say, even as the shorter shopping season makes every day crucial for retailers.

The season, which has six fewer days than last year because of a late Thanksgiving, is expected to be the toughest since the financial crisis of 2008, with retailers forced to discount heavily to attract budget-conscious shoppers.

Although the cold weather prevented customers from visiting stores on Saturday, demand is expected to pick up later in the week, analysts said.

"This past weekend, the Northeast was a mess with snow starting on Saturday and continuing into Sunday, perhaps encouraging shoppers to postpone shopping to the coming week, buy more online, or just wait for Super Saturday weekend," Topeka Capital Markets analyst Dorothy Lakner wrote in a note.

Super Saturday is the Saturday before Christmas, when many shoppers try to get in their last minute shopping.

The massive storm, which affected about a third of all Americans, resulted in flight delays and cancellations at major airports in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City and Newark, New Jersey and made roads and highways treacherous for driving.

However, Craig Johnson, president of retail consulting and analytics firm Customer Growth Partners, told Reuters on Sunday that storms like this one that are predicted a few days ahead "don't destroy demand ... they displace it forward or backward."

"Over the next week this will all even out and, based on historical experience, sales will be recouped."

In a survey by America's Research Group and Inmar, 48.3 percent of consumers surveyed said that they were mostly or all done with their holiday shopping, compared with 45.2 percent this time last year.

Of those who are not yet done with their holiday shopping, 22.2 percent are planning to wait until the last three days to finish up, according to the survey.

Retailers such as Dick's Sporting Goods Inc and Tractor Supply Co that provide snow supplies and winter wear are likely to benefit from the storm that comes just a week after another massive storm froze the Southeastern United States, analysts at Suntrust Robinson Humphrey said.

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