Bernhardt attributed the hit to the fact that so many of the major population centers in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. — including New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. — were on track to post record or near-record high temperatures for November and December.
Cooler temperatures in the West haven't been enough to counteract these highs, as they're still warmer than those typically experienced in other parts of the country, Bernhardt said. Also, the regions aren't as heavily populated.
Bernhardt said retailers will have no choice but to continue slashing prices on their winter goods, or sell the items to off-price stores such as TJX for "pennies on the dollar."
If they were to have severely discounted winter merchandise on their shelves when spring shipments arrive in late February, it would be nearly impossible to sell their new products at full price.
"They'll be practically giving it away, but they'll clear it," Bernhardt said. "The level of markdown that you're going to see … we haven't seen that in a very long time."
Ron Friedman, national leader of Marcum's retail and consumer products group, said prior to the New Year that he was already receiving daily emails offering 50 percent to 70 percent off.
Still, Paul Walsh, vice president of weather strategy at The Weather Company, said he doesn't expect fourth-quarter sales to come in as weak as many expect. Although it was warm, Walsh said, it wasn't snowy on the weekends. Heavy snow is what typically keeps shoppers inside and out of the stores.
What's more, Walsh said the weather comparison to last December is "not very difficult," as it was the second-mildest December on record.