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Warm Weather May Hurt Apparel Sales

The unseasonably warm weather in much of the nation may curb apparel sales this holiday season, but the news isn't all bad for retailers.

"Christmas always comes regardless of the weather," says Amy Brackin, director of marketing at Planalytics Inc. of Wayne, Pa., which advises consumer companies about the weather and its business impact. "What the weather will drive is what people buy."

That means slow sales of sweaters, scarves, and other cold accessories could dampen overall apparel sales, though younger consumers and other slaves to fashion trends will likely buy into the latest styles, regardless of the temperature.

Buffer Negative Impact

"Given that we have a new fashion silhouette of long over skinny (long sweaters over tight leggings) we think that will buffer some of this negative impact," Marie Driscoll, who heads the retail group at Standard & Poor's, said on CNBC's "Power Lunch."

"These are new and gaining traction (and) we think this will offset some of" the weakness in other pockets of apparel. Stores from Ann Taylor to American Eagle Outfitters are showcasing these styles, she says.

Consumer electronics may be another beneficiary.

"We live in a buy-now, wear-now society," Brackin adds. "When the weather doesn’t drive those purchases, you will see those same consumers edging toward consumer electronics and things of those nature. Where you will see an increase right now is at Best Buy and Circuit City , because there is no need to buy new gloves and new outerwear."

Recent data seems to support that theory. Retail sales at consumer electronics and appliance stores gained a whopping 4.6% in November, while sales at department stores and clothing stores were flat.

Other retail outlets, such as electronic shopping and mail-order, advanced 1.3%.

Retail Sales Strong

Overall, retail sales in November gained 1.0%, notching their largest rise since July. Retail sales excluding autos and also gasoline, a reading viewed as a more reliable core measure of household spending, increased 0.9%. It was the largest rise since the 2.5% gain notched in January.

Warmer weather also hurts sports equipment sales like ski equipment.

"This weekend is a critical weekend for retailers as well as next weekend," Jay McIntosh, of the retail and consumer products group at Ernst & Young, told CNBC's "Power Lunch."

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