Summer ‘polar vortex’: Retailer excuse or real headwind?

Yahoo Finance

Editor's Note: The following was written by Yahoo Finance Contributor Milanee Kapadia. You can follow her on Twitter @MilaneeKapadia

For most of the U.S., the never-ending winter of 2013-14 now seems a distant memory. Not for retailers though. The cold weather hurt sales as consumers stayed home and brought down first quarter GDP.

But now it seems weather forecasters are predicting another polar vortex that may hit the Northeast as soon as September. Already we’ve had the coolest summer in the last decade. Since the third quarter encompasses July, August and September, retailers actually may be in for some good news. Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Mike Santolli says the cooler weather may push shoppers in to purchase winter gear earlier.

“If we get an unusually cool spell heading into or during September, are we gonna see as many retailers sort of credit the weather to the degree they like to blame the weather in the past? You often hear this, people buy according to need. You buy a coat if you feel cold one day, or a sweater.”

Macy’s (M) came out with earnings today and the stock is lower after second-quarter sales failed to make up for weakness in the first quarter. The company’s CEO Terry Lundgren blamed the economy saying many customers are still cautious. Santolli says that raises a bit of doubt as to whether the Q1 story is really about the weather because “we are in this very low growth environment, where these little swing factors are the difference between positive and negative potentially in any given quarter as we saw in the first quarter. So to me it’s more of an outgrowth of this very slow kind of growth trajectory that we’re in as opposed to really anomalous weather or demographics.”

Two factors that may give a bump up to Q3. Back to school shopping and the baby boomlet that is predicted due to - you guessed it - the polar vortex last winter as couples stayed home.

But like the markets, weather forecasting is an unpredictable science.

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