Warmer Fall Temperatures Chilled Boot Sales in Q3

Atypical weather patterns threw a wrench into apparel and footwear retailers’ earnings results this fall.

In the last week alone, executives from Walmart, Shoe Carnival, TJX Companies and Macy’s noted that unseasonably warmer weather this fall impacted consumer preferences and sales in certain cold weather categories like sweaters and boots. While year-round sneaker brands can largely avoid this type of climate-related impact, retailers are more at risk.

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TJX Companies, which owns T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, said that sales trends dropped off in October when the weather stayed warmer than usual into the fall season.

“But when we saw the weather cooled down, toward the end of October, we saw our sales trends return,” TJX CEO Ernie Herrman said in a call with analysts this week, adding that the company’s fourth quarter sales are already off to a better start.

Shoe Carnival on Thursday said that mild temperatures September and October led to slow sales in its fall and seasonal merchandise after Labor Day. As a result, seasonal boot comparable sales declined in the low-twenties in Q3.

“The weather was persistently hot and dry in most of our geographies during September and October, and sales turned to high single-digit and low double-digit declines for multiple weeks in the early fall period,” Shoe Carnival president and CEO Mark Worden said in a call with analysts. “From a category perspective, boot sales have been very soft with the warm dry weather.”

Moving forward, Worden said he is confident that Shoe Carnival can adapt to weather changes for the remainder of the season.

“We are positioned to be able to transfer that consumer out of boots into shoes or athletic product going forward,” Worden said. “So the team has done a great job keeping us flexible as we can move through the balance of the fourth quarter.”

Walmart said this week that sales improved in November as unseasonal weather patterns subsided and temperatures turned colder.

“I’m learning that [weather] can have profound effects on consumer shopping patterns,” said Walmart CFO John David Rainey in a call with analysts this week, adding that cold weather categories started to improve as soon as the weather changed. “And we saw anomalous weather in the back half of October.”

Target CEO Brian Cornell also noted this week that more customers appeared to be delaying their seasonal spending until the last minute to manage the impacts of inflation.

“Guests who previously bought sweatshirts or denim in August or September are deciding to wait until the weather turns cold before making a purchase,” Cornell said. “This is a clear indication of the pressures they’re facing as they work to stretch their budgets until the next paycheck.”

At Macy’s, CEO-elect Tony Spring told analysts this week that despite the warmer-than-usual weather in Q3, the department store retailer did see strong sell through with its sweaters and is working to bolster its assortment of “transitional products” that can be worn in various temperatures and seasons.

“One of the things we’ve come to accept is we don’t control the weather,” Spring said. “But we can diversify our assortment to take advantage of opportunities for gift-giving and self-purchase.”

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