Cold snap could be hot for winter retail sales

The bad news for snow-pummeled Buffalo, New York, could be good news for the nation's retailers.

The polar plunge is happening at just the right time, especially for department store retailers who experienced a slowdown in October, said Paul Walsh, vice president of weather factor strategy at The Weather Channel.

Many retailers attributed soft sales to unseasonably warm weather, as consumers put off winter purchases last month, the fourth-warmest October on record, Walsh told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.

"All in all, I'm actually pretty bullish for retail weather as we go into the season," Walsh said.

With the cold blowing in, shoppers are now heading out to buy winter hats, scarves, and gloves, said Jan Kniffen, CEO of J. Rogers Kniffen Worldwide Enterprises.

"This is about as good as it gets when you have this big, bad cold snap well in advance of when you want to sell the product," Kniffen told "Squawk Box."

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Lake-effect snow buried the Buffalo region under a record accumulation on Tuesday, piling up to 6 feet of snow in some areas. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Wednesday and called in the National Guard to help manage the situation after the unrelenting storm forced plows off the streets.

But in the long term, weather should have a fairly benign effect on retail this year compared to last winter, Walsh said. He said the weather should be milder, with fewer storms that keep consumers off the roads

Whether or not promotions will be enough to lure shoppers to stores remains to be seen. More Americans are waiting to see if Black Friday deals are worth it this year, according to a new study by the National Retail Federation.

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The study found that 31 percent of Americans are taking a "wait and see" approach, up 2 percent from last year.

Though the annual shopping event is now a multiday extravaganza, Friday is still expected to draw the vast majority of deal seekers, with 68.2 percent of NRF survey respondents saying they plan to hit the stores on Friday.