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Retailers push coats, scarves amid humid weather

Coats on display at a Uniqlo store in Singapore on Friday, Sept. 16.
SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Many shoppers no longer want to buy a coat if they can't immediately wear it out the door.

Yet on a humid Sunday in the Northeast, with the forecast calling for a hotter end to September than last year, some retailers were already showcasing their outerwear.

On a store tour over the weekend, Jefferies analyst Randal Konik said the assortment at Abercrombie & Fitch and Gap skewed heavily toward cold-weather apparel. That included puffer jackets at Abercrombie, and outwear and scarves at Gap.

Old Navy also highlighted pea coats at the front of its shop, though its assortment was "more balanced" throughout the store, Konik said.

Specialty apparel shop Francesca's did the "best job" at balancing product that could be worn now with heavier items, Konik said.

"With consumers gravitating more towards a 'buy now, wear now' mentality and temperatures remaining warm across much of the country, we see those retailers that have more balanced assortments as better positioned over the coming weeks," Konik said.

Indeed, warm temperatures have weighed on sales at fast-fashion retailer H&M, whose customer base tends to scoop up trend-right, immediately wearable items on impulse.

Still, Konik noted that retailers' promotional levels remain rational. Many on Wall Street are expecting the second half of the year to deliver meaningful margin improvement for apparel companies, after unseasonably warm temperatures last year forced them into heavy discounting.

In a separate note to investors Monday, Wells Fargo analyst Ike Boruchow noted that in the first three weeks of September, same-store traffic declined 3.6 percent, according to ShopperTrak data. That marked an improvement from the prior three months and sets them up for the best month since September 2015.

"That said, we also see some question marks for the trajectory of the industry, given a slowdown in September Week 3 and the fact that weather may be turning unfavorable," Boruchow said.