Bad weather maybe ahead but are you prepared?
Saturday October 21st 2017; if you're a Huddersfield Town fan you'll know the significance of this date. But as the chances are that you are not, allow me to explain.......
Huddersfield were at home to Manchester Utd in the English Premier League. Coming off the back of a thrashing at Tottenham and Utd on a roll after conceding only twice in their previous 8 league games, no-one gave Huddersfield much of a chance.
They had other ideas however.
At the end of a pulsating (not to say very wet) afternoon, Huddersfield emerged winners 2-1.
Luck? A poor Utd performance? Elements of both were in evidence but it was one of the post match comments from Utd manager Jose Mourinho which perhaps sheds the most light on the contrasting performances: "They had the better attitude, more desire".
A clue can be found in looking back at the weather in Huddersfield that day.
It was a rainy old afternoon in Huddersfield!
Because on Saturday 21st October 2017, Storm Brian was battering England with winds over 70 mph and heavy rain. Indeed, all day Saturday a yellow weather warning was in place for northern England.
Could Huddersfield manager David Wagner have prepared his players far better than Mourinho did with his for the storm they were about to face?
Working With Weather
OK so we can't control the weather right? And this writer for one hopes that we never reach a time when we can; the thought is just too terrible to contemplate.
So if we can't control the weather what can we do about it?
It seems that with virtually every poor sales announcement comes a weather warning these days. It was too cold, too hot, too warm, too wet - we've heard them all. But does it really have to be like this?
Of course not.
According to Jim Dale, Founder & Senior Meteorological Consultant at British Weather Services, "If it’s not number one, then weather will be pretty near the top of influencing factors on when and why customers purchase what they purchase"
The reality is that for most retail businesses, the weather is regarded as an external factor which cannot be predicted and therefore doesn't appear to be included in any business planning.
If the weather plays such an important role in retail sales performance why then doesn't it feature more prominently when planning and forecasting?
It comes down to a question of attitude; rather than 'being done to' by the weather, surely the time has come to work with the weather to gain competitive advantage?
Retail Week has recognised 'weather' as being a retail influencer, ranking it at number 58 in the 2018 'Power List'.
But judging by the number of retailers who blame the weather for poor sales perhaps it should be much higher?
"We shop for comfort and out of necessity, with weather being the main driver. If retailers do not educate themselves on the impact on retail sales, they are missing out"
Jim Dale, British Weather Services
Accurate forecast is one thing but weather education and its place in a retail organisation are both in need of wholesale review.
It touches every part of the organisation from marketing to supply chain from merchandising to store operations.
And now with Artificial Intelligence available to all, there really is no excuse to blame the weather for poor sales.
Complex algorithms constantly updated in real time - something no human could possibly do - means inventory can be in the right place at the right time according to whatever the eternally fickle British weather might be doing.
Isn't it time we began working with the weather rather than accepting it as a consequence of doing business?
Andrew Busby is a former retailer, founder of Retail Reflections, a top retail influencer and an IBM Futurist.