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Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Those of us on the East Coast were buried this past weekend in a monumental December snowstorm leading some to fear that holiday sales would be interrupted. According to NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service, the regions impacted by the snow, New England and the Mid-Atlantic, accounted for 18 percent of sales for the first 10 months of the year. While this is a substantial amount of volume it’s not likely that a one or two day pause in holiday shopping will cause measurable impact on the final holiday sales volume, even when those two days are two of the busiest days holiday shopping days, the Saturday and Sunday before Christmas.

There are a couple of reasons why we expect this snowstorm to have a limited impact. First, and foremost, the calendar is kind to retail this year (as was the snow). With Christmas falling on a Friday the industry has an entire week of shopping days to give consumers time to catch up. And anecdotal reports are that consumers have already been out in droves on Monday to catch up on the missed shopping days. Here in Northern Virginia, where I live and where 20 inches of snow easily overwhelms both the residents and the transportation infrastructure, there were reports of gridlock at area malls including waits of 60 minutes to exit mall parking lots

The second reason is the high percentage of online shopping that occurs in Tech. Snowbound this year did not mean cut-off this year. Online retailers and brick and mortar retail sites jumped on the disruption caused by the snowstorm to increase email to consumers, offering shipping deals, and fast delivery to make up for the lost shopping opportunity of last weekend to help ensure that consumers gift choices would make it in time for the holiday. This targeted electronics marketing only adds to our conviction, as we expressed in our Black Friday Report this year, that ecommerce continues to make a real dent into the consumers perception of how, when, and where they shop for the holiday.

Stephen Baker, is The NPD Group’s Vice President, Industry Analysis