Items like bread, bottled water and toilet paper fly off store shelves when a hurricane is forecast, but less extreme weather data also are helping companies predict what their customers want, according to one expert.
"Very large companies like Wal-Mart, like Home Depot, like Lowe's have for years been using weather information to assist them from a supply chain planning perspective, said Paul Walsh, vice president of weather analytics for The Weather Channel.
Department stores, supermarkets and restaurants can also benefit from weather-related consumer-trend data and analytics, he said.
Grocers might learn, for instance, that beer sales jump in Chicago after three days of below-normal temperatures, while a sales increase occurs in New York when temperatures are above normal, according to Walsh.
By leveraging these trends, retailers can adapt their supply chain management, fine-tune advertising and avoid what's known as the "weather excuse"—used widely this year when unusually cool spring and summer temperatures were blamed for weak retail sales, he said.
"As the weather is continually becoming more volatile and is impacting more people, this technology—the ability to leverage data in this way—is becoming increasingly important and increasingly profitable," Walsh said.