Kayla Marci

August 29, 2022

How Retailers Can Weather Climatic Shifts

From heatwaves in the UK to flooding in Australia, here are some considerations for retailers' assortments as temperatures reach new extremes.

In recent years, the negative impacts of global warming have become more realized. 

This presents a harsh reality for retailers who, in addition to striving to reduce emissions, will also need to implement an action plan for operating in extreme climate conditions.

Using EDITED data, this report measures how assortments are impacted and the changes to action.

Get in touch for a free demo to see how EDITED can transform your business today.

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Key Takeaways

  • Floods and heatwaves intensified this year and, because of climate change, are expected to become even more frequent. This underscores the importance of having the right product at the right time. Though early demand for seasonal products, like swimwear, needs to be catered to, ensure customers have new options in key sizes closer to July as temperatures rise.

  • Phasing summer, or winter, styles before the season changes can harm profit margins. Retailers delivered new outerwear styles in July as the US and UK experienced record temperatures. More than half of these pre-fall styles are now advertised with a discount, as customers complained about a lack of summer options on social media.

  • The intense heatwaves drove triple-digit growth in sell outs of dresses in the US and sandals in the UK. Meanwhile, the flooding in Australia resulted in demand for weather-protective styles, with puffer jacket sell outs experiencing an uplift of 84%.

  • The climate crisis will fuel interest in heat-regulating apparel for everyday clothes, not just activewear, workwear and Gorpcore. Consider moisture-wicking and insulating qualities for products that consumers wear in their homes and in the evenings to keep them warm or cool as energy and heating bills are predicted to soar.

Major Weather Influences

La Niña

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is one of the most critical climate phenomena as it can change the global atmospheric circulation, influencing temperatures and rainfall. It can be in three states: El Niño, the warming phase; La Niña, the cooling phase and neutral, where sea surface temperatures are close to average. 

Meteorologists have predicted a third consecutive year of La Niña this winter, dubbed a “triple-dip.” If it continues into next year, the US could see worsening drought conditions, an increased fire risk and a dry winter in the southwest, while the north might experience cold and stormy weather. In Australia, La Niña’s forecast spring arrival will spell three months of heavy rain across the east, which is already experiencing severe flooding. In the UK, cold conditions for winter are expected to intensify.

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Image via NASA Space Place

Heatwaves

This summer, the UK endured a severe heatwave as temperatures reached a record 40C (104F), resulting in the Health Security Agency issuing its first ever level four heat-health alert. During this time, there were droughts and wildfires around the country, which led to an increase in hospitalizations and the disruption of public transport disruption.

A study by World Weather Attribution stated that the heatwave was made at least ten times more likely because of human-caused climate change. As temperatures rose, a clip of a GB News meteorologist warning skeptical anchors of the severity of the heatwave went viral, accruing 1.2 million views on Twitter as Netizens were quick to point out the life-imitating-art parallels with the film Don’t Look Up.

 

Rethink Seasonal Phasing

Consider close-to-season options

The ideal time for Northern Hemisphere retailers to drop swimwear has been identified as being early March and late April. However, as summers grow hotter, there is an opportunity to tweak assortments to ensure product availability closer to season, in order to maximize full price selling. This approach to seasonality was suggested at the height of COVID as retailers were urged to rewire the fashion calendar, a notion that has since been abandoned. 

Pent-up demand for vacations led to swimwear experiencing strong sell outs year round, spiking in July in line with temperatures. On Instagram, ThisMerchLife shared customer sentiments that by the time heatwaves hit, limited swimwear was available, key sizes had sold out and seasonal products had been prematurely discounted. Meanwhile, retailers promoted cold weather apparel as the bulk of new season outerwear landed the same week as swimwear sell outs reached their peak.

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The unusually warm weather is already proving detrimental to Pre-Fall 2022 ranges. 66% of UK outerwear that arrived since June has already been reduced, with an average discount of 41%, while in the US, 53% is marked down at an average rate of 43%. This is a stark contrast to the proportion of discounts taken this time last year when only 9% of UK and 12% of US new outerwear was marked down.

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Meanwhile, the reverse seasons in Australia result in fall/winter products traditionally dropping between January and March when it is still warm, influencing Q1 sales. As the region continues to be plagued by wet weather, sell out patterns are changing. While early deliveries are necessary to introduce newness into ranges and stay competitive, product flow should be reserved for when the demand for seasonal products happens, especially as climate change could make La Niña-like conditions more frequent.

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The Impact on Sell Outs

US

New dresses selling out between May and July surged 106% YoY, with cotton midis and maxis resonating with overheated Americans. Despite the warm weather, trousers outsold skirts and shorts for womenswear, making up 28% of bottoms sell outs vs. 16% a year ago. Interest in linen trousers, wide-leg silhouettes and cargos supported this growth. Shorts were the top selling style for the men’s bottoms category, accounting for over half of sell outs.

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Images via Lululemon & Mango

UK

Dresses maintained their position from last year as the top selling women’s category for UK retailers over the high summer period. For menswear, accessories jumped to second place behind tops, up from third in 2021, with sell outs fueled by new summer hats and sunglasses. The heatwave also boosted demand for women’s sandals, which experienced a 228% increase in market-wide sell outs YoY.

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Images via boohooMAN & Zara

Australia

As torrential downpours replaced Australia’s typical mild winters, wet weather apparel became highly sought after. Sell outs of new puffer jackets increased 84% YoY across women’s and men’s wear. Boots made up 10% of women’s footwear sell outs for May-July 2021, rising to 16% this year and overtaking sneaker sell outs by 3pp, with longer boot silhouettes having performed well.

 
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Images via Zara & Jo Mercer at The Iconic

 

Opportunities for Investment

Expand technical fabrics in ranges

Heat regulating apparel will become even more important to your consumer as temperatures fluctuate and energy bills rise. These items are prevalent within sportswear, yet lacking when it comes to everyday garments. Of the products in stock, 57% are described as having moisture-wicking properties, and 63% of waterproof styles sit within activewear.

With absorbent qualities common in tailored shirts, tops make up 55% of moisture-wicking options suggesting room to explore cooling materials for less-invested in categories over summer, like sleepwear. Consider lightweight, porous materials such as bamboo and micromodal. Due to demand for Gorpcore, water-repellent properties are commonplace within outerwear, making a case to extend this finish to bottoms and tops. 

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