Jack Frost is giving retailers an early Christmas present.
A winter storm is expected to hit the Midwest later this week, according to the Weather Channel. As the storm's snow and cold rain blow through the region on Thursday and Friday, it will leave behind frigid, but dry weather for the weekend. And the chilly temperatures in both the Midwest and the Northeast are exactly what retailers need right now.
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Last year's mild weather was terrible for specialty apparel chains and department stores, said Paul Walsh, vice president of Weather Analytics at the Weather Channel, which like CNBC is a unit of Comcast's NBC Universal. It was one of the warmest on record, and retailers got stuck with lots of extra cold weather gear, which was marked down.
But the cold this year is expected to get shoppers in the mood to snatch up sweaters, jackets and scarves. It's crunch time as the final shopping days of the holiday season wind down, and this weekend is the last one before Christmas. Consumers will indeed be scurrying about for last-minute gifts.
Walsh said he expects the coming weather to translate to strong sales of winter apparel. "By the time the storm will be gone, it will be bitter cold," he said. "The abrupt shift will make it feel really cold."
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According to ShopperTrak, a retail technology company that tracks and analyzes retail foot traffic, this Saturday, which is also known as "Super Saturday," is forecast to be the second busiest shopping day of the holiday season.
'Meggings' Are Back!
While this weekend's cold weather could lift retail sales, some specialty retailers already have been getting a boost from popular fashion trends.
"Within specialty apparel, sparkle, glam and glitter are still happening in sweaters," said Thomas Filandro, senior retail analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group. He also noted there has been renewed interest in "meggings," which are the male version of tight-fitting jean leggings for women known as "jeggings."
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Rockers such as Kayne West and Justin Bieber have worn the look on stage, but it's still up for debate whether the look will achieve mass appeal.
One trend that's more certain is shoppers, who have been grouping their retail trips around big events such as "Black Friday."
Retail analyst Filandro expects to see a big surge in business this coming weekend because shoppers will be back after a pronounced lull in store traffic in early December.