Warm Weather Could Mean Huge March Retail Sales


The weather during the first quarter of 2012 was remarkable. Absolutely remarkable. And this could translate into big numbers when the March 2012 U.S. Advance Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services results are released by the Commerce Department on Monday, April 16th.

Temperatures were warmer than we’ve ever measured across a large portion of the United States and spring began much earlier than normal in many places.

Specifically, March was incredibly warm with thousands of heat records smashed in the huge population centers across the eastern half of the U.S.

Setting aside the inevitable debate about global warming, the statistics are stunning and a major positive factor as it relates to retail sales and the economy. Retailersbenefited from the incredible warmth and earlier Easter and posted very strong high margin sales.

It was, for retailers, the prototypical perfect storm.

According to Richard Hastings, a strategist with Global Hunter Securities, “Looking into next week’s big retail sales number Monday morning, we would be looking for year-over-year growth of 6.5 percent to give us total retail sales of $420.5 billion. March can be an explosive month. This occurred in March 2010 when growth, year-over-year was 10.6 percent, and March 2011 was also strong with year-over-year growth at 8 percent.”

Looking ahead to April retail sales, the tide has turned as it relates to the incredibly warm weather. The pull forward effect of the March’s record weather will likely take a bite out of April’s results.

However, as unusual as the temperatures in March were this year, April 2011 was also unprecedented in the historical record (117 years). Last year, it was all about rain. Unrelenting rain. The incessant rain had a hugely negative impact on outdoor recreation, lawn and garden, construction and outdoor DIY and, of course, retail store traffic.

This year will be different. On a comparative basis, while the return to more seasonal temperatures may result in a headwind for seasonal apparel, fewer rainy days will provide a counterweight to the pullback in seasonal demand.

Watch CNBC Monday, April 16th for complete analysis of the United States’ March 2012 Advance Monthly Retail Trade Report at 8:30 am New York time

Paul Walsh is the vice president, Weather Analytics at The Weather Channel, an NBCUniversal company. NBCUniversal is the parent of CNBC and CNBC.com.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com.