ll lovers of fashion know that weather is everything when deciding an outfit. You wouldn’t wear your new suede boots when it’s raining outside, just like you wouldn’t break out the parka when the forecast calls for a high of 95 degrees. So how are fashion consumers and fashion retailers going to handle the challenge of climate change and unpredictable weather patterns?
The retail industry is already taking new strides to combat the problematic effects climate change has on seasonal sales, starting with the up and coming industry leaders of tomorrow.
At the Fashion Institute of Technology, the administration has introduced a new course that teaches students how to analyze the impact of climate change on retail. The course is called Predictive Analytics for Planning and Forecasting: Case Studies with Weatherization, and is taught by Gary Wolf, an FIT professor for fashion business management.
“Ever since I’ve been in this industry, which is my entire life, everyone’s blamed the weather for their gains and losses,” Wolf said.
Unpredictable weather can cost fashion retailers several million dollars in declining sales of seasonal merchandise. For instance, an abnormally warm winter can leave retailers stuck with racks of heavy coats and boxes of snow boots, that become lost revenue for the company.
Fashion retailers, and schools like FIT, are hoping to use data to analyze how weather and seasonal merchandise intersect in order to minimize losses.
FIT student Amy Condie explains the practical applications of the Predictive Analytics class, and why it is so important for fashion students entering the industry.
Condie explains how they examine, for example, “Whether there’s going to be a spike in the demand for winter coats for certain months.” In effect, they can “de-seasonalize” and “re-seasonalize” to make sure they’re stocking the right amount of inventory.
The industry lingo of “de-seasonalizing” and “re-seasonalizing” refer to fashion retailer’s efforts to lay out the data for an entire year, and strategize how to order and market inventory.
This type of data analysis is not limited to college classrooms, though, as there are entire companies dedicated to the analysis of weather’s economic repercussions for retailers.
Look at Planlytics, a company that assists retailers in gauging how weather will impact their merchandise and earnings.
Last December, when the weather was significantly warmer in the east than it is most winters, Planalytics was met with clients wondering what to do with the overstock of coats and other winter-gear.
“Focus on areas where it was cold,” Evan Gold, vice president of Planalytics advised, “and either move the product there or try to do some regional marketing to get customers into the area where it was going to be cold.”
And the planning paid off. Despite the unseasonably warm December, the east experienced a surge in cold weather at the end of the year, giving retailers an opportunity to market leftover inventory to consumers, raking in a $350 billion profit over the previous year.
“Retailers and business will market to those consumers either on mobile devices or traditional email to get them to come into their specific place of business,” Gold explained.
When it comes to the clash of fashion and climate, whether it’s your suede boots and heavy precipitation or an overstock of coats after a balmy winter, success is all in the planning.
Featured Image via Flickr/Luis Penados