2018 has been far from normal for the UK. Just months after the ‘Beast from the East’ battered Britain with snow in early March, we’re now weeks into a heatwave which could eclipse 1976 as the hottest summer on record.
On the face of it, the hot weather has provided a healthy boost for retail sales. However, this isn’t without its challenges for retailers, who need to cope with the temporary shifts in demand, among other complexities. Read on as we discuss the impact of the 2018 UK heatwave on retail.
A unique coincidence
While the current heatwave wasn’t officially declared until 23rd June, the sun has been shining more than usual across the UK since around mid-May. Even before that, April had its own short heatwave with the hottest April day in nearly 70 years and the hottest ever London Marathon at 23.2 degrees. But it’s not just the weather that has made 2018 stand out.
The Royal Wedding and World Cup went hand in hand with the heat to provide an impressive boost for retail sales. That’s particularly the case in England, where a rare respectable showing by the Three Lions kept the ‘it’s coming home’ fever alive until the final week of the World Cup, and another plume of hot air due from Europe seems to suggest it’ll be a hot August for the UK.
How has retail been affected by the heat?
From April onwards, sales of shorts, ice cream, barbecues and barbecue-style food shot up drastically, with Waitrose reporting sales of sun cream had increased by over 400%. And as World Cup fever swept the nation – or at least part of it – beer was next to get a boost. Tesco said it expected to have sold nearly 50 million cans of beer before England had even reached the quarter finals, with a million bottles of wine to boot.
On top of all that, John Lewis reported a 140% increase in TV sales on the first day of the tournament. And we don’t need to remind everyone of Marks & Spencer’s unexpected demand for Gareth-Southgate-inspired Waistcoat Wednesday…
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. There are also some items which don’t fare too well in the heat. DFS and Dunelm reported falling sales for sofas and home furnishings like bedding, curtains and rugs. As a result, they’ve seen shares fall by 5.4% and 0.95% respectively.
Mixed fortunes for retailers
While some retailers have struggled, the boosted demand for some items has pulled total sales figures up overall. “Retail sales in May saw their highest growth since January 2014 as better weather and the bank holiday effect led shoppers to buy from garden furniture and summer fashion ranges; recovering some of the ground lost in April,” said Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium.
Despite the severe underlying challenges facing the high street, this upwards shift in spending increased throughout June, with total retail sales rising by 2.3%, and is continuing on through July and into August. These figures strengthen the Bank of England’s belief that the economy has shrugged off a weak start to the year. However, more broadly, it has further highlighted how unpredictable weather can affect retail in an instant. And this has serious implications for the supply chains of many industries.
Coping with unpredictable weather
Maintaining the integrity of the cold chain is vital in the manufacture and transportation of many pharmaceuticals and food products. The problem is that lots of consumable products and many of our staple foods come from other regions of the world, and so have a fair distance to travel. Lettuce growers struggled to keep up with the high demand throughout July, with record 18 million lettuces being sold in a week – a 40% increase on the same week last year. And with the fields now yellowing and the grass becoming scorched, dairy farmers are having to dip into the winter feed supplies. Extreme weather conditions disrupt supply chains globally – from agricultural production to changes in consumer behaviour – so it is key to manage your network effectively.
Being prepared for unpredictable weather doesn’t mean you have to predict the weather itself. Instead, it’s about being prepared for all eventualities. To have the relevant product on offer at the right time, retailers need the ability to move quickly and store their excess stock in appropriate locations, so it can get where it is most needed at speed.
If it is unexpectedly hot in one region, then fulfilling that demand becomes easier if you can access stock from nearby warehouses quickly. The key is to have full visibility of your supply chain and be proactive in finding solutions. Flexible warehousing in strategic locations can assist in this.
Bis Henderson Space can help you to manage unpredictability by helping to source capacity solutions in fast-changing business environments. By assessing your current network, we can help you to source warehouse space that suits your business needs and will support your current peaks – even in unpredictable weather conditions.
If you’re looking for more information on flexible warehousing and how it can help your business, don’t hesitate to contact our team.
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