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Epperson

Lackluster winter retail sales bring attention to Internet

Jerry EppersonJerry Epperson
Last winter, I was willing to admit I may have been incorrect on Al Gore. His global warming theories seemed very real during a warm winter with only a dusting of snow here in the Capital of the Confederacy, Richmond. I remember going to the nearby Chesapeake Bay last February in a short sleeved shirt since it might reach 80 degrees. Eighty degrees in February? And the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. experienced an unusually mild winter, helping almost every retailer except the Internet. Why would the Internet care about weather?
     Then there is 2014. What a change. Even here in the sunny South, this winter has been brutal. Numerous evenings with temperatures below 10 degrees have set records and convinced many southerners that anti-freeze is a good idea in your car. Some areas have a propane shortage.
     Last week, Richmond had two inches of snow on top of some frozen rain, making driving a challenge to many who are not used to much snow. The schools closed for four days because the temperature never got up close to where the light snow would melt. Seriously, two inches and four days of school closings.
     It makes me wonder what the Janus storm that dropped a foot or more of snow on the Northeast must have done to the retailers there. And another polar blast is coming our way with near record lows. Atlanta is not ready for 19 degrees and Richmond is not happy with 10 degrees either. About the only good news is that the local drivers of SUVs can finally justify paying extra for four-wheel drive. By the way, do you have a very large heavy coat I could borrow?
     No wonder retail sales have been lackluster versus a mediocre winter last year.
     The snow has kept many from leaving their homes, and the extreme cold has discouraged others. It has even negatively impacted home sales according to the Realtors, hurting home furnishings sales on another level. Nuts. I cannot remember a greater contrast between two winters, and I doubt many can.
     In the good old days (a decade ago), we could assume every retailer would suffer about the same, given such severe weather, but no more.
     Yes, the retailers who are grinning ear-to-ear are selling on the Internet to consumers warm in their homes, not worried about shoveling out, falling on ice, starting their car, or driving it, slipping and sliding on the roads.
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