Bad weather compounds retail difficulties but is not root cause, says consultant

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Bad weather is compounding problems for retailers but it is not the root cause, according to Matthew Kentridge, principal in the retail practice of global management consultancy AT Kearney

“The tendency of retailers and analysts alike to blame poor retail performance on the weather – it’s always either too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry – is something of an industry joke,” said Kentridge.

“Still, there is both empirical and scientific backing rainy days keep people away from the shops. Over the years there have also been numerous economic and psychological studies, which have all demonstrated a strong correlation between levels of sunshine, good mood, and propensity to buy.

“It may be right to attribute April’s dismal retail figures (down 3.3% like for like against April 2011) to the dreadful weather, which saw us experiencing three times the monthly average rainfall. But bad weather only compounds more deep-seated problems for retailers as consumers  continue to feel the effects of unemployment (at a 17-year high), of inflation (still above 3.5%) and of squeezed disposable income down 8% between September 2011 and September 2010*. Overall consumer pessimism is reflected in consumer confidence indices, which remain resolutely downbeat.

“Although we may expect to see a welcome spike in sales in the coming months due to Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics, until consumers see an improvement in their personal circumstances, the overall downward trend in retail sales which we’ve seen since the start of the recession is set to continue – whatever the weather.”

* Asda income tracker