Black Friday Outlook: Will Wintry Weather Put a Dent in Sales This Year?

By By Michael Kuhne, Staff Writer
November 27, 2015, 2:52:58 PM EST

Every year after the Thanksgiving feasts come to an end, millions of Americans venture outside the comfort of their homes and into the elements to line up on plaza sidewalks and in the warmly lit corridors of shopping malls in hopes of seizing a great Black Friday deal.

While those early bird specials are great incentives for those looking to save money, sinking temperatures and a wintry onslaught of wind, snow, ice and rain can deter customers from spending on the largest shopping days of the year, according to Tim Loftus.

Loftus is a business intelligence analyst with AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions and has worked in the retail industry for several years.


"If it was a very large [weather] event, that could impact sales greatly," Loftus said.

"Behaviors differ based on region. It really depends on the location and the size of the event," he added, citing that 2 inches of snow in the Northeast would not impact sales as much as it would if 2 inches fell in the southern United States.

The best chance for wintry weather, including the potential for accumulating snow and wind, will exist in the upper Great Lakes on Black Friday. Depending on how much moisture is available, a couple of snow showers or freezing drizzle will become a concern in northeastern New Mexico and the northern Texas Panhandle.

The storm that will spread snow will also unleash a soaking rain from Michigan to Texas. Icy conditions could set up across the Texas Panhandle. While it will be mild and dry across much of the East, most of the West will be chilly and dry.

Before heading out to your favorite retailer this year, take a look at the AccuWeather MinuteCast® for a minute-by-minute forecast of precipitation type and intensity for your exact location.

Weather isn't the only force impacting holiday sales either.

Since the onset of the recession, shoppers haven't been spending those hard-earned dollars like they used to, which has prompted retailers to create even greater incentives to get people into their stores -- including keeping doors open on Thanksgiving Day.

"That's only something we've seen for about the past five years," National Retail Federation Spokesperson Kathy Grannis Allen said. "The recession really did change retailers' approach."

This year, several major retailers have changed that trend and have announced that they will stay closed on Thanksgiving Day.

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According to Loftus, since many retailers were offering incentives on the days leading up to Thanksgiving, as well as on Thanksgiving Day in recent years, it's likely they saw a boost on days they wouldn't normally see, but sales remain steady through the weekend as opposed to growing.

"Some retail stores are trying to get back to that initial Friday sale," Loftus said, adding that many were simply trying to get an edge on their competition by opening earlier in the week.

In 2006, retailers saw 5.2 percent growth in holiday sales, Allen said, but following the recession, the growth rate has slowed and still hasn't fully returned to the pre-recession levels.

"We've definitely seen some positive growth," she said. "It's now about the rate of growth."

At the moment, growth is around 4 percent, with 2015 sales expected to be around the same at approximately 3.5 percent.


2011 was the best year since the recession began with 5 percent growth that year.

Even though gains have slowed, the days following Thanksgiving are still the largest shopping days of the year, and according to Allen, 2015's holiday weekend will be a tremendous boost for retailers in both sales and traffic.

"That weekend overall is estimated to [account for] 10 to 15 percent of the entire holiday season, " Allen said.

With millions of Americans looking to save money and kick off their holiday shopping, severe weather doesn't have to stop customers from getting the great deals, Loftus added.

"Online sales are really important," Loftus said. "If the weather is not good, [retailers] might see a boost in online sales and 'Cyber Monday' sales."

Many retailers have begun to offer special sales exclusively to their online customers as well, he added.

Online shopping incentives have been becoming more and more common, and many who don't want to risk poor weather conditions to get a bargain can still start their holiday shopping from the comfort of their living room.


"Holiday sales in 2015 are expected to represent approximately 19 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion," according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

"Additionally, NRF is forecasting online sales to increase between 6 and 8 percent to as much as $105 billion."

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